Mental Health Benefits of Gardening: Nature’s Healing Touch

Ed Wike
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Gardening and Depression/Anxiety

Many people consider tending to the garden as a form of personal therapy. They believe in a simple fact that gardening is all about having the control on something.

This is why you feel more fulfilled, and calm, after tilling the garden. The motion of weeding and digging, weeding and digging makes you feel calm at the end of the day. The sense of satisfaction is something that you like most about gardening.

This is also true for other forms of gardening. You make a plan, and then put it into action, by doing the physical work of labor.

When you rake the leaves, when you turn the soil, or when you prune the hedge, your body and your mind are put to action. This is what you like about gardening. Gardening gives you the opportunity to focus on the relaxing, natural process. And the reward is the bounty you receive from the yield of your efforts.

Gardening and Eating Disorders

Gardening is a great distraction from body-image issues and other self-destructive behaviors that sometimes plague people with eating disorders. Gardening naturally focuses the mind on something besides obsessive thoughts about food and body shape. Running from the mirror to feed and water vegetables that grow in the ground and don’t need constant policing is undoubtedly a healthier choice than running from the toilet to the scale.

Although gardening helps keep obsession about food at bay, it does not treat an eating disorder. If left undiagnosed or untreated, eating disorders can lead to permanent health damage and even death from malnutrition. Even if the negative effects of eating disorders are not life threatening, people who have anorexia or bulimia tend to have low self-esteem. As a result, the time they spend beautifying the garden can be a source of much needed self-affirmation.

Like many pursuits, gardening can be a trigger for people with eating disorders, so good self-care is essential. If you are taking steps to overcome an eating disorder, seek professional treatment and support from someone you trust (perhaps a therapist, spiritual leader, or family member). An eating disorder can be overcome through treatment, and the same is true for gardening.

Gardening and Attention Deficit Disorders

According to Dr. David K. Reynolds, ADHD is a disorder of inattention. It is a mental condition that makes it difficult for sufferers to resist distractions and concentrate on important tasks. Most people can resist distractions for five to ten minutes, but patients with ADHD find it incredibly difficult to overcome multiple distractions.

While this trait can be frustrating and difficult to deal with, some scientists believe it could have some advantages. While ADHD sufferers might struggle to focus on one task at any one time, these researchers believe that it can potentially help sufferers to notice and retain more information. Since most ADHD sufferers rely on short-term memory, any information that is registered in the brain, may stick around for a long time.

Gardening and Infertility

There is a growing body of research showing that gardening boosts fertility in women.

A study of more than 200 couples who were trying to get pregnant reported that women who gardened had significantly higher rates of conception than those who did not garden. It also showed that the women had fewer miscarriages and fewer fertility-related issues.

The Australian researcher in the study, found that women who spent just five minutes a day caring for plants boosted their fertility.

The study was only done with women, but since the same principle applies to men I can’t see that it won’t benefit men as well.

One environmental factor that may be important in encouraging fertility in women is thermogenesis. Thermogenesis refers that the process of breaking nutrients

Down into simpler forms.

Gardening and Grief

In the past, certain herbs and flowers were often planted near the headstone of the deceased to help the soul of the departed find healing. This is because they carried medicinal properties that could heal the soul and the body.

Even today, you will see many gardens being planted around the headstones in cemeteries. These serve a number of purposes, such as to create a natural atmosphere of comfort and beauty, but they can also play a vital role in the grieving process.

A study conducted at the Sheffield University in England found that gardeners and people who maintain and work in gardens experience a greater sense of well-being, and experience lower levels of stress than other people in the general public.

They’re happier! Gardening can reduce depression and anxiety. Gardening can help you deal with grief, loss, and other stressful circumstances in comforting ways when you take the time to care for the earth, and nature can heal.

This thesis was also supported by a study conducted at the University of California, Riverside where they found that gardening can be therapeutic and healing for people who have experienced loss.

If you have recently lost a loved one, or have experienced the death of a friend or family member, one avenue to consider is getting involved with gardening.

Gardening and Chronic Illness

Gardening is one of the cheapest, easiest and most effective treatments for people with chronic illnesses, particularly long term illnesses. Gardening helps with:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Social isolation
  • Back pain Lowered energy levels
  • Reduced lifespan

Sufferers of chronic illnesses are often recluses in their own home. They spend almost all their time indoors. Rarely do they come into contact with anyone else. Their everyday routine usually involves spending a good amount of time in bed or reclining in a chair or couch. This type of lifestyle has a negative impact on their general health, and it can contribute to a reduced lifespan, not to mention severely limiting their enjoyment in life.

On the contrary, gardening requires that you get outdoors, exercise and interact with others. Even if it is simply interacting with the plants.

Gardening can reduce depression and anxiety.

After just 30 minutes a day of gardening, an individual's mood has been shown to improve.

Perhaps the reason for this is that you are doing something that is beneficial to your personal well being, instead of just sitting around.

If you choose to talk to others, you are also more likely to be in contact with other people who may help you pick up the pieces with personal problems that can lead to depression and anxiety.