Do you have trouble sleeping at night because you overthink things? Or, you feel uncomfortable getting out of the house and interacting with people? Although this may happen to a lot of people now because of the pandemic, it happened to people before COVID-19 became our reality. Therapy and medication can help, but there may still be that feeling of needing something to look forward to every day. According to a 2018 study review, gardening can brighten your day.
Exposure to plants can be beneficial for mental health by reducing anxiety, sadness, and anger. Looking at the greenery, outside or in pots, can make you feel better and lift your spirit up. Gardening, as a pastime activity or a more serious endeavour, brings you closer to plants and creates an environment where everyone can find their place. So, keep on reading as we examine how gardening can lighten up your mood and what science has to say about that.
1. Gardening may help with depression
In 1989, British scientist David Strachan came up with the hygiene hypothesis. Based on this theory, humans moved away from the land into the urban dwellings and stopped benefiting from microorganisms. As support of this notion, scientists have been studying the effect of soil-present microbe Mycobacterium vaccae on behaviour.
This is a friendly bacteria you can inhale during gardening and feel the increase in your mood because it can stimulate serotonin production. Mycobacterium vaccae is not the only reason why you may feel less depressed when in your garden. Horticultural therapy is often prescribed to people with depression and anxiety because of the soothing effects of tending to plants, repetitive movements, and fruitful actions.
2. Keeping your stress under control
In 2015 a group of researchers from the Netherlands published a study demonstrating that looking at green space can reduce stress and brighten your day. The study involved 46 students viewing the photos of green and built spaces, after which the scientists measured their stress levels through parasympathetic and sympathetic activity. The conclusion was that as little as five minutes of looking at the green space can help your body and mind to recover from stress.
Tending to your garden will provide more than five minutes of this bliss, as well as stronger stimuli to brighten your day. The smells, the sounds, and the sensations that come with being outside and surrounded by nature create a comforting environment. Leave your phone inside and unplug from the digital world for an hour or two with gardening. It may give you the strength to face your stressors by making you feel more relaxed and clear-headed.
3. Practicing mindfulness with plants
Mindfulness is about cherishing the present and letting go of the past. It usually involves meditation, breathing techniques, and yoga, but gardening can also create an ideal environment for practicing mindfulness. Ultimately, helping you brighten your day!
Gardening keeps you focused on tending to plants by working with the soil, weeding, harvesting, and other activities. It has a calming effect and allows you to remove negative thoughts from your mind, which in turn makes you less irritated and hanging on to bad experiences. Mindfulness and gardening go hand-in-hand because the movements and natural environment offer the perfect setting to go through your thoughts and eliminate stressors.
4. Gardening Helps You Socialize
We are not all confident enough to meet people on the go. The shyness and insecurity may rob us of some interesting interactions and socialization. Gardening provides a good excuse to mingle and join a community of people with the same interest. If anyone can understand the troubles and blessings of gardening, it’s other gardeners.
This socialization can be in person with your neighbours, users of a community garden, or attendees of gardening seminars. However, the pandemic has urged us all to limit social contacts and isolate ourselves, so socializing may seem impossible. It may not be so dramatic, though, since the online community is very much alive and brings topics of gardening to video chats, message boards, emails, and tutorials.
5. Staying physically active
Per the American Heart Association recommendations, adults should have at least 150 minutes of physical activity every week. The good news is that you can get that through gardening, according to a 2008 study published in HortTechnology. In other words, you can burn almost 300 calories by tending to your plants for 30–45 minutes every day.
While this is great news for your weight loss plans, it has positive effects on your mood, too. Our bodies release the so-called feel-good hormones during physical activity. More specifically from the group, endorphins can decrease cortisol levels and help you manage stress.
6. Growing your own food is rewarding
There is a sense of accomplishment when you start harvesting products to prepare meals from your garden. Besides bringing lots of minerals and vitamins into your life through veggies, fruits, and herbs you will eat, it is also great to brighten your day and boost self-esteem and mood.
The satisfaction of starting and finishing something may help you have a better opinion of yourself and your skills. It can be a teaching ground to learn how to be persistent in life with projects at work, your education, or a healthier lifestyle. Moreover, being able to provide food for yourself and your family will encourage you to be proactive in life and overcome obstacles.
7. Learning to accept the unpredictability
The need to control things is inherent to the majority of humans. Since it’s impossible to pull strings in everything, you may feel dissatisfaction and frustration. Moreover, even with all the necessary garden accessories, it’s not guaranteed that your plants will grow successfully. For this reason, gardening is an ideal activity to learn about acceptance of unpredictability and not fear things you can’t predict.
In your garden, even the most resilient and easy-growing plants may fail, regardless of your care. A pest infestation, unfavorable weather, or polluted soil may appear and diminish your efforts. That’s okay! In life, just like in your garden, sometimes things depend on factors you can’t control, and learning to accept that can give you peace of mind and brighten your day.
8. Gardening is your time in the sunshine
Over the years, you probably heard of the harmful effects of the sun, and rightfully so. Sun can cause premature aging and skin cancer if you don’t wear sunscreen and limit your exposure. Yet, sunshine is also a means for the skin to produce vitamin D, important for immunity and bone health. Good health means less worry and a better mood, after all.
Still, the sun has a more active role in lightening up your mood. When eyes spot sunlight, it activates the production of serotonin triggered through the retina. Known as a happiness hormone, serotonin can brighten your day and regulate anxiety. This is why you may feel depressed during winter and periods without sun, even though you don’t otherwise have any mental issues. Gardening may give you enough sunlight to soak in its positive effects by just looking at the sunny spots in your backyard.
9. Giving yourself a sense of purpose
We all want to belong somewhere in this world and find our place under the sun. With gardening, you can give yourself a sense of purpose and learn how exhilarating it can be to fulfill your goals. A gardener starts with empty soil and seeds that turn into mature plants with nurture and care that can feed you, give shade, or dazzle you with beauty.
When you create something so inspiring and valuable, you discover that you are an important part of that ecosystem. As a caretaker of everything that grows and lives in your garden, your purpose provides validation of worthiness that can make you proud of yourself and brighten your mood.
10. Tending to plants may “cure” perfectionism
If you are a perfectionist then you know the amount of pressure it can cause. While you may receive praise for your perfectionism, it may not be such a good skill to have for your mental health. In a nutshell, perfectionism makes you respect high standards and self-evaluation. When you don’t meet these expectations, you may feel disappointment, resignation, and anxiety.
Gardening offers the ideal environment to learn how to live with things that are less perfect but still worthy and beautiful. For example, your roses may have smaller blooms than your neighbours, but that doesn’t affect their liveliness and sweet scent. This lack of perfectionism is a demonstration of how pushing yourself less doesn’t mean you can’t achieve something admirable.
11. Gardening may keep your mind sharp
Spending time in your garden and tending to plants may improve your memory, based on a 2019 Korean study. The scientists investigated the effects of 20-minute gardening on the cognitive function of elderly individuals. The participants performed six tasks in their gardening activity: cleaning, fertilizing, raking, digging, planting, and watering. The findings showed that gardening has the potential to improve memory and even serve as a therapeutic mechanism for people with a risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
This is not exclusive to the elderly population since gardening includes performing several brain functions that can keep you focused and on alert. As stimulation for the brain, it can help you stay sharp and deal with problems quicker and more efficiently. Not only will it eliminate frustration and stress, but make you feel more confident and motivated.
We all have our highs and lows. The trick is to not let the lows rule your life and keep you from experiencing all the wonders of life. As an activity that can lighten up your mood, gardening can help you get to know yourself and realize your potential. It gives many directions, outcomes, and choices, so even the beginners can find a way to successfully nurture their gardens. Just remember to do yourself a favour and install a bench to have a seat and marvel at the astonishing piece of nature you created.