Some days I crave the outdoors. Just a breath of crisp, clean air gives me a rush of joy that I want to grab on to and not let go. But I usually have to continue, return indoors to class or work or chores. There is no real reason for me to be outside, and even when I think it would make me feel less bogged down by the responsibilities of life, I am too tired to go on a walk or sit in the sun.
Recently, I have become the parent of 32 plant babies. While walking through the grocery store aisles, I spotted a display case full of seed packets. The possibilities sprung into my imagination of a peaceful little garden making its home in my room. I decided that it was time for me to become a plant mom. I planted lavender, chamomile, and rosemary. The herbs I chose have calming aromas, so once they are full-grown they will add to my overall sense of well-being.
Gardening gives me both responsibility and a bit more happiness. There is something quite pleasing in the practice of taking care of something pure and natural, helping it grow into the world. Every morning I wake up and look upon my plant babies, hoping for new sprouts to be poking through the soil. It gives me a little burst of serotonin to see their leaves reaching towards the reaching towards the sun. Watering them is a peaceful activity that I look forward to, letting my mind unwind with as the water pours over their green leaves.
Is Gardening Good For Your Mental Health?
Whether your garden is a collection of potted plants on your windowsill or a plot of land in your yard, gardening is good for your mental health.
According to the 2013 Mental Health Review Journal, practicing gardening as a form of self-care helped reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Connect to the Earth
Gardening helps us connect to the world. I’m not one to deny the benefits of technology, but it also creates a different world in which we are less connected to the environment around us. Working in the soil, you are physically connected to the earth, rather than on asphalt or concrete ground.
This reminder is helpful to remember that you are a part of nature as well, a human creature that needs nurturing and the simple cares in life, the same as plants and animals do. We all need tender loving care, remember to allow yourself to receive care. Connecting to other living things helps us feel less alone, even if it isn’t other people. Sometimes, plants are better than people, less drama.
Often, looking after others is easier than looking after ourselves. Planting a garden takes on a small responsibility that must be kept up with on a daily to weekly basis. This requirement to tend the garden helps establish a schedule and normality in your life.
Implementing balance in little areas of your life will help your mind from spinning out of control. Enjoy a simple task of caring for plants, let your thoughts focus on that one thing as you water and prune and trim them. Having a responsibility to care for living beings guides you through your week, as they depend on you and you on them.
Gardening is good for mental health, practice meditation through repetitive actions.
Practice Meditation Through Actions:
Gardening can become a form of meditation. Allow your mind to become blank as you perform gardening chores like watering plants, weeding beds, and plucking dead leaves. Just like yoga, focus on the physicality of the actions and breathe smoothly as you work. Don’t worry if your mind becomes filled with worries of the day and things you need to do later. Acknowledge the thoughts, but let them go.
Now is the time to be with your plants, there will be time later to think about your obligations. If you use your time gardening to clear your mind of other thoughts, it gives you a break from stress. Gardening will help you in the long run, giving your brain a breather from high-stress moments and, hopefully, a reminder of the calm you felt in your garden.
Be Gentle With Yourself:
Another benefit of gardening is learning to accept the messiness. There will not be perfection in nature’s domain, and that is a good thing. You can let go of expectations that the garden will be perfect. Vegetables may grow smaller than expected or in odd shapes. Your plants may be crooked or try to escape their pots. Some might decide never to show up, and others may multiply like weeds. The nature of nature is chaos amongst the beauty, accept when things don’t go as planned and embrace the imperfections.
Getting Outdoors Is Great For Your Mind
Trick your body into feeling better. Gardening is a gentle form of exercise, which stimulates the release of endorphins, chemicals in the brain which make you feel good. It also burns calories, helping you get fit by keeping your body moving. Several studies have shown that exercise can boost mood and help to alleviate anxiety and depression. Gardening gets your body moving and off the couch.
Sometimes you need a reminder of the sun on your skin and your arms and fingers moving to complete a task, to help you feel alive. The simple act of working in your garden can help relieve stress, improve sleep, and boosts your mood. That’s something we all need. Gardening is good for your mental health by boosting endorphins with gentle exercise.
New Interests Improve Mental Health
Take a Chance:
It’s a simple thing to go and get some plants. Not always a simple task to keep them alive, but that’s part of the joy. Take a trip to your local plant nursery, or order some seeds online. From a small windowsill garden to a yard full of seedlings, maybe give gardening a try. Don’t put pressure on yourself and hold no expectations for the plants. Merely open yourself up to the opportunity that gardening improves your mental health.
Find a place to garden. Whether that means your backyard, a community garden, or just a windowsill. Decide if you want to start big or small. Ask yourself what kind of plants you want to grow. What would bring a little bit of joy to your home? Explore the options but don’t overwhelm yourself. Relax! That’s the whole point, you can take it easy.
Frequently Asked Questions: Is Gardening Good for Your Mental Health?
Where do I start gardening?
Start by writing down some goals of your garden. Do you want veggies? Flowers? Herbs? Do you want a windowsill houseplants? Or to plant them in the yard? Consider how much work you want to put in and what tools you have. Allow yourself to explore the possibilities, but don’t overwhelm yourself. Check out our article on starting a garden for some other great tips.
If I don’t have a yard can I still garden?
Yes, of course! I keep my garden on my windowsill, so even though it is small, as long as you have a sunny spot you can grow plants. You might want to start with a small herb garden, as they are small and easily contained in pots. To get started, check out a herb garden seed starter kit.
Why is gardening good for me?
Gardening’s benefits extend past mental benefits, check out our article on the wonders of playing in the dirt.