Over the centuries, many a problem has been worked out in a garden. Gardening is good for the health of our bodies, minds, and souls.
Join us as we explore the benefits of gardening for mental health.
Gardening For Mental Health
We live in a complex global world. Life has a way of pulling at us from many directions and stress piles up. Growing a garden is a wonderful tension reliever. Read on to explore many of the different ways gardens benefit our mental health.
1. Gardening Can Distract Us From Things That Make Us Anxious
Whenever you are in a place where you need a little time alone from the worries of the world around you, time spent with your plants or in a garden where the breezes blow and leaves rustle can help.
No matter how big or small your gardening space is it can be a safe place to let yourself be you. The trees and the flowers don’t judge. Gardens by nature are tranquil places and it’s in the quiet that our souls can heal. Gardens are a space where you can “air things out” or mull through your thoughts peacefully.
In a garden, you can leave your thoughts in a planter and do other things with your brain for a while to let your emotions rest. Being outdoors in nature causes us to slow down, collect our thoughts, gain perspective, and reduce our anxiety and stress levels.
Even if you don’t have a garden of your own, go out to a public garden or a park. Take a walk and breathe the fresh air deeply.
2. Gardening Can Improve Our General Sense of Wellbeing
Flowers blossom when they are ready, vegetables bear their produce when they are mature, and they don’t compete with the plants around them. They do their thing in their time and they remind us to do the same.
3. Gardens Teach Us Patience
Gardens remind us that life is not a microwave and they have a way of letting us pause. Nothing is instant in a garden. We must plan our gardens and work out our plants to get our gardens to flourish.
4. Gardening Provides A Sense of Accomplishment
There are so many ways gardens give us feelings of achievement. From sweeping the sidewalk, weeding a pathway, to trimming a hedge, there’s always something to do in a garden. Getting tasks done is a satisfying feeling.
Knowing that you had a hand in the fresh vegetables at dinner or the flowers in a vase gives us a feeling of having achievement. And that in turn builds our self esteem.
5. Gardening Keeps Our Minds Active
Gardens don’t happen with a snap of our fingers, there’s planning and research that go into it. It could be exploring how to grow a vegetable a new way or finding out what kind of new perennial would work in the shade.
In gardens, the learning never stops. Our father, Charlie Wallish, learned a new way to grow peas at 85 years of age. All through his gardening life, he just seeded peas and let them grow in a heap. He picked them “bent over backwards”, in his words, all of his life.
Until the day he helped a friend pick his peas on a pea fence.
Charlie had never ever used a pea fence in his gardening career. Since that day, he has never looked back. His peas are all grown on a fence now. He loves the accessibility of picking them on a fence.
Do you need to try a pea fence or some other different way of growing something?
Then there is implementing the plan by actually doing the physical work. There are always issues to puzzle out in a garden…something didn’t germinate, or someone new is eating the lettuce leaves. Every year there is some logistical problem. And most years it’s something unfamiliar or different from previous years.
This leads to more research and discussion and discovery. All of this learning keeps our minds busy. Continual learning keeps us young and vivacious.
6. Gardening Encourages Creative Expression
In the outdoors, a garden stimulates our creative juices. Humans innately love to surround themselves with beauty and flowers and foliage fit into that category.
Not everyone loves the same plants or colours, so we customize the colours and textures that inspire us and suit our backdrops. In our own gardens, we can colour the butterflies the way we want and we can even colour outside of the lines. It’s our garden, it’s our artwork and we can express it how we like. There are no hard and fast rules as to how we put flowers and foliage together.
On a culinary level, freshly picked produce from the garden always has better flavour. That gets our creative juices flowing and great things happen in a kitchen with wonderfully tasting food. It can be a creation a simple as a bowl of newly picked and washed raspberries or it can be a complicated pasta primavera. Whatever level you choose is up to you. And how you create and craft it is your choice.
Gardening For Physical Health
In our northern Alberta climate, getting enough physical activity can be a challenge during the winter months – it’s so easy to become sedentary. Inactivity carries many health risks. But once spring comes and the weather warms up, we have plenty of opportunity to get our steps in.
7. Gardening Maintains Physical Mobility
Gardening is a physical activity and that alone makes it good for our bodies. There is bending, digging, stretching, crawling; and carrying and moving heavy objects involved. Maintaining a garden is strength building.
8. Gardening Is Good For Heart And Lung Health
Digging, planting, mulching, weeding, and watering engage multiple muscles. Exerting muscles leads to exercising our hearts because of the increased demand for blood circulation. That helps keep our hearts in shape.
With increased movement there is increased need for oxygen. We breathe deeper and our lungs inflate more fully. Gardening is good for lung health, too. And once we get in all this activity, gardening helps you sleep better.
9. Gardening Encourages Healthier Eating
In Alberta, we can grow fresh fruits and vegetables in abundance. Popular fruits are strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, and saskatoons. All of these fruits are loaded with vitamin C.
In the vegetable category, the sky is the limit to growing vegetables because we have so many hours of sunlight during the summer. Vegetables can be prepared so many different ways. They can be eaten raw, roasted, boiled, barbequed, sautéed and even pickled.
For more reading on growing fruits and vegetables in Alberta, check out more of our blogs:
Be encouraged and inspired to take time outside and watch your garden unfold before you. Gardens are constantly changing through the seasons and it’s fun and healthy to play an active role in it. As you spend time with your garden your body, soul, and mind will be refreshed.
What kinds of things will you grow in your garden this year?
– by Sharon Wallish Murphy