One Plant or a Thousand Can Help You Stress Less and Be Healthy Through Gardening.
We’re mentioning types of gardens and talking about both mental and physical health benefits related to any style of gardening. You don’t have to be a Master Gardener to benefit physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually from working with plants. There may even be value for Alzheimer’s patients and for people suffering from depression. Interestingly, PsychCentral (famous for its personality type tests) mentions gardening in its article, 10 Small Steps You Can Take Today To Improve Bipolar Disorder.
Whether you have one orchid, a Japanese garden, an English Country Garden, a terrarium, a bonsai plant, or pots in a window sill, gardening can help you feel better fast – at any age.
Maybe you have an indoor or outdoor aeroponic garden, or you want to create a veggie Tower Garden, which allows you to avoid having to dig, weed, use pesticides and mulch. You could choose a cactus dish garden, a water garden or a table top garden.
Perhaps, you want to attract birds, bees, or butterflies. There are so many options.
We’ll discuss the mental and physical health benefits of gardening in just a hot minute. But, first, here is a very short tribute to someone who has been an uplifting blessing in my life for years.
Peg Bier Has Been Gardening All Her Life and Is A Master Teacher
I am certified as a Master Gardener in Virginia; but I learned at least as much from my beloved friend, Peggy Bier, pictured here with her granddaughter. I hope they’re in Peg’s famous fairy garden! They would fit right in!
Peg has been with Merriefield Garden Center for 40 years, has co-hosted their television show and taught free Saturday morning classes on topics ranging from selecting the right plants for the right locations to creating beautiful silk flower arrangements. She is an imaginative, artistic, creative, thoroughly-knowledgeable horticulturist and a life-long learner, who also knows the scientific names of most plants. She applies all that experience, knowledge and inspirational creativity to ingenious designs of both gardens and flower arrangements. Everyone wishes she could provide their decor for holidays or help them create a fairy garden!
Peggy knows that gardening has helped keep her young. She moves with the agility of a 20 year-old….lithe, agile, and trim. She is “sharp as a tack,” mentally, as well as having a generous and loving spirit. She is one of the Lights of My Life!
But, let’s get back to YOU and your situation.
Gardening ~ Large or Small
Whether you have acres of land, or you simply grow an ivy in your kitchen window, or you put a cherry tomato plant in a container on a sunny balcony, you can reap health benefits and stress less. You merely allow yourself the gentle escape of paying intimate attention to the needs, growth and beauty of plants and the nature which surrounds them. When you do that with “mindfulness,” you give your mind, body, emotions and spirit a break from the thousands of overwhelming thoughts, complexities, and activities of daily life. This helps both body and soul replenish and rejuvenate themselves.
6 Health Benefits of Gardening
- Studies have shown that both adults and children are more likely to eat and experiment with fresh fruits and vegetables that they have grown, rather than purchased. Check out Anne Palmer, Eating for the Future, the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Center for a Livable Future.
- Gardeners can control whether and which pesticides are used, when they grow their own food.
3. People may find greater stress relief from gardening than from other leisure activities. A recent study in the Netherlands suggests that gardening can fight stress even better than other relaxing leisure activities. After completing a stressful task, two groups of people were instructed to either read indoors or garden for 30 minutes. Afterward, the group that gardened reported being in a better mood than the reading group, and they also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
4. We may achieve better health for both the brain and emotions while lowering the risk of dementia.
Some research suggests that the physical activity associated with gardening can help lower the risk of developing dementia….
Two separate studies that followed people in their 60s and 70s for up to 16 years found, respectively, that those who gardened regularly had a 36% and 47% lower risk of dementia than non-gardeners, even when a range of other health factors were taken into account…..And for people who are already experiencing mental decline, even just walking in a garden may be therapeutic. Many residential homes for people with dementia now have “wander” or “memory” gardens on their grounds, so that residents with Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive problems can walk through them without getting lost.
Health.com: 25 signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
5. There even can be benefits for depression and bipolar disorder.
In a study conducted in Norway, people who had been diagnosed with depression, persistent low mood, or “bipolar II disorder” spent six hours a week growing flowers and vegetables.
After three months, half of the participants had experienced a measurable improvement in their depression symptoms. What’s more, their mood continued to be better three months after the gardening program ended. The researchers suggest that the novelty of gardening may have been enough to jolt some of the participants out of their doldrums, but some experts have a much more radical explanation for how gardening might ease depression.
6. Of course, gardening IS exercise, unless you are watering just one plant in a pot. Even though gardening, typically, is not great aerobic exercise, gardening gets you out in the fresh air and sunshine, so you may breathe more deeply, allowing your body and mind to stress less and helping you take in more oxygen. It gets your blood and lymph fluids moving. The lymph system is what cleanses and supplies nutrients to your body. Go to Live Science to learn much more. Here is an excerpt.
The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body.
The lymphatic system primarily consists of lymphatic vessels, which are similar to the circulatory system’s veins and capillaries. The vessels are connected to lymph nodes, where the lymph is filtered. The tonsils, adenoids, spleen and thymus are all part of the lymphatic system.
Also, as this CNN Health article points out,
…digging, planting, weeding, and other repetitive tasks that require strength or stretching are excellent forms of low-impact exercise, especially for people who find more vigorous exercise a challenge, such as those who are older, have disabilities, or suffer from chronic pain. And, once you’re hooked, you’re likely to stick with it.
Once upon a time, I created a Power Point presentation, called “GARDEN DESIGN – Think Small,” for people who have too little time, money, space or experience to “go big.” You don’t need a “green thumb” (natural skill at growing plants) to do these things; and, you can use a lot of design tips, statuary, pretty pots, wind chimes and other things to create a mood and a look that suits your style. If you are interested, let me know, and I shall review that presentation, perhaps convert it to video, and make it available. In the meantime,