Much is written about the physical benefits of gardening and for good reason!

All that kneeling, pulling, pushing, twisting, and repetitive motion can be just what recharges the body. Breathing in that “outside” air has benefits and helps refresh and energise.

Is there more? What about mental health?

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Here are some facts to consider about why gardening is good for mental health.

Although the term “mental health” has been defined as an absence of illness in the past, more recent studies spend time identifying positive markers. These markers allow for more understanding of how we may impact our mental health irrespective of a physical illness being present in the body.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community (WHO 2004. Promoting Mental Health: A Summary).”

The act of gardening certainly comes to mind as a way to cover all of these aspects of mental health.

And there’s more: Westerhof & Keyes (2010, Journal of Adult Development) define mental health as, “Three core components of positive mental health: feelings of happiness and satisfaction with life (emotional well-being), positive individual functioning in terms of self-realization (psychological well-being), and positive societal functioning and a sense of social value (social well-being).”

Emotional well-being and gardening

Research is abundant in this area, all the way from studying the rhythms of gardening as they override everyday stressors, improving concentration to dissecting the microbial content of soil and its positive impact on depression and even allergies. (Yes, there is value to getting your hands dirty).

Planting, tending and harvesting in all seasons and weather connects us to the natural world. That takes us away from self absorption and toward a more calm and nurturing perspective. The colors, textures, scents, wetness/dryness and sounds all combine to engage an effortless attention to appreciate what we are doing in the moment.

gardening for mental health_2Psychological well-being and gardening

In addition to the repetitive soothing nature of many gardening activities, there are times when planning, problem solving and brute strength are required. Some folks say that they can tell a gardener’s personality from their garden. Certainly there is infinite diversity among gardeners and they are proud of it.

Studies about dementia show that gardening is one of the activities that fits the criteria of how to slow that process down or even possibly avoid it entirely. Gardening is good for brain functioning.

Social well-being and gardening

Allotments and community gardens have become popular once again. Within these communities is the opportunity to share ideas, labor and set some goals for the gardening being done there.

It’s never too late to garden on a small scale such as a window box or a flower pot. The enjoyment of watching and tending a plant can begin with just one. And your excitement can spread to others who see that same plant. What about just sprouting seeds? What about growing a few herbs to spice up your life?

Find your reason for why gardening is good for your mental health. As a reader of WatchFit you are interested in good health and wellness. Here is something to do that provides a lot of gain for just a bit of effort. It is something that can be done over a lifetime, anywhere on any budget. Gardening can enhance your emotional well being, your psychological well being and your social well-being.

Where will you begin?

Or better yet, just begin and notice the benefits for you.

Have a story to share about why gardening is good for your mental health? Just drop me a line. Happy Gardening! gardening for mental health

Connect here with Watchfit Expert Dorothy Rodwell

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