By: Kristen Sohlman, MACP, RP
Did you know that gardening helps to support positive mental health? Here is how!
Gardening can give you a sense of responsibility: I recently gave my daughter her own plot in the garden to plant whatever she wanted to grow and I noticed the sense of pride and sense of responsibility that this brought her. Gardening is a great way to care for and look after living things and helps to develop an appreciation for nature.
Gardening can help you become a nurturer: Gardening can be as diverse as those that are gardening no matter if you are younger or older, male, female or transgender, you live in the city or the country, etc. Gardening means that you are a nurturer and you provide food, water, and care to the plants that you sow.
Gardening helps you to relax and to let go: Gardening is peaceful, quiet, and can be a healthy escape from the stress of daily living. Sigmund Freud noted that “flowers are restful to look at. They have no emotions or conflict.” By gardening we can tap into the carefree part of your day and to connect with the rhythms of nature by sowing, weeding, trimming, and watering.
Gardening releases healthy hormones: Gardening helps you to spend time outdoors and to get exercise. What is good for the body, is good for the mind. When you exercise your levels of serotonin and dopamine (hormones that make you feel good) rise and decrease cortisol (a hormone associated with stress). By engaging in gardening, getting fresh air and sunlight, as well as exercise can help you to sleep better at night.
Gardening reminds you to live in the present moment: One of the best ways to bring yourself peace of mind or to calm anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues is to lift your mood through gardening. When you go out to garden stop and take a pause for a few moments and allow yourself to be truly in the moment. Engage your senses. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What can you feel? What can you taste? Even a short time spent being in the present moment can be healing and restorative.
Gardening can help you to process feelings of grief and loss: Gardening involves life and death and can connect you with the cycle of life. Gardening as a healthy ritual can assist you in working through difficult times in life, to process feelings and emotions, and to process feelings of grief and loss. Gardening involves the giving of life, acknowledging life’s end, as well as regeneration.
Gardening can help you to vent anger and aggression: Gardening is not always beautiful and light, nature has an ugly and dark side. Similarly, gardening can also assist you in being able to express your ugly and dark side too by helping you to process and vent your anger and aggression in a healthy and more productive way. Yes, chopping away at that hedge or tree or even pulling out weeds and getting your hands dirty can provide you with a healthy catharsis. This is not harmful to the plants if done at the right time in the right way and can also promote renewal and growth. Remember that plants that are not cut back or taken care of will become overgrown and unhealthy. Much like your life and your needs for self-care in order to cultivate a healthy lifestyle.
Finally, Gardening is easy! You do not need a green thumb to become a gardener. You do not need a lot of space to become a gardener. Start off small with a potted plant, an aero garden, or even some lettuce in a pot. You do not need to spend a lot of money either. Be kind to the environment and pick a pot or container that has been recycled like an old wooden box, an ice cream carton, or whatever you find around your house. By having even one hanging basket can lift your spirits and give you a sense of accomplishment!
Rayner, S. (2015). Petal power: Why is gardening so good for our mental health? Psychology Today. [Web page] Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/worry-and-panic/201505/petal-power-why-is-gardening-so-good-our-mental-health
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