Gardening has seen a significant resurgence during the pandemic. Over 50% of American households are gardening these days, 29% of those are millennials. Not only does gardening appeal to all ages and can it be done in most living situations, but there are also many surprising health benefits as well.
Research has been catching up to the simple truth our great-grandparents knew: gardening is good for you. Over the last two decades, research coming out of Japan and Europe has shown gardening has a wide range of favorable health outcomes, including a reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms, mood disturbances, increased stress management, healthier BMI, cognitive function, increased physical activity, sense of community, and an overall increase in quality of life.
Gardening has become a kind of holistic therapy called Green Therapy (therapeutic exposure to plants and gardening). Much of the research on Green Therapy shows decreased pain and use of pain medications, lowered blood pressure, reduced stress and fear, and lowered pulse rate and muscle tension. In northern Europe, hundreds of Green Care Farms are “prescribed” to those suffering from poor mental health, learning disabilities, drug dependence, and the elderly. Patients are referred to work at these farms, and many of them also have animals on the farms as well. In the United Kingdom, the University of Essex started the National Care Farms Network, which has grown to over 400 farms nationally.
Why Is Gardening So Effective?
Gardening successfully combines physical activity, social interaction, and exposure to nature and sunlight. Sunlight lowers blood pressure and increases Vitamin D; both having numerous health benefits. The nutrient-packed veggies aren’t a bad side effect either!
Research shows that when kids help grow fruits and vegetables, they are more likely to eat more produce and try a variety they usually wouldn’t try. Increasing the amount and variety of fresh fruits and vegetables on their plates has a fantastic effect on gene expression and aids the ability to detoxify, repair, and regenerate. Gardening also increases our dexterity, strength, stamina, and aerobic exercise. Calories expended while gardening are equal to that of a gym workout. Who knew such a gym existed right outside your window?
Dirt as an Antidepressant
Mycobacterium vaccae is a bacterium found in soil that has stirred the research community for the last 20 years. It seems this microbe mirrors the effects of Prozac on neurons. Researchers believe this bacterium stimulates the production of serotonin, making us feel relaxed and happy. In fact, research is being done to see if these bacteria could be used to treat PTSD.
Even if you believe yourself to have a brown thumb, we hope these health benefits will encourage you to try your hand at gardening again. Whether you install raised beds, grow bags, potted herbs, try no-till gardening or a happy wildflower patch, we are confident you’ll start seeing the benefits of gardening right away.