Making the Most of Gardening's Many Health Benefits By Maria Cannon

A garden can turn a boring yard into a colorful retreat that attracts birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and other wildlife. An edible garden can line your yard with food and herbs to fill your pantry and fridge. But gardening offers much more than meets the eye. If you’re looking for a task that combines a hobby, relaxation, exercise, and nutrition, all while benefiting your mental health and beautifying your yard, then gardening may be just what you need.

Relaxation and Happiness

Our society demands multitasking and for us to be constantly plugged in, which can really wear your brain out. Gardening is a great way to counteract the constant badgering of our brains. You’re focused on the task at hand, so you’re contemplating where to plant your daisies instead of how to reply to your boss’s email. Studies show that gardening can actually lower cortisol, the hormone responsible for stress.

Additionally, gardening can help fight depression. Researchers believe gardening may increase the body’s production of serotonin, which boosts mood. Also, since gardening usually occurs outside, you’re soaking up the sun, which helps to fight Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and other forms of depression, including bipolar disorder.

If you want to maximize the stress-reducing potential of your garden, try to appeal to all of your senses in a relaxing way. Appeal to your hearing by incorporating gentle sounds such as wind chimes, outdoor speakers for soft music, or a water feature. You can also choose plants that attract birds to get the natural chirping of birds to fill your garden. Aim for scents that soothe including roses, lavender, jasmine, and honeysuckle scents, as well as aromatic herbs.

When choosing flowers to plant, opt for muted blues and purples against a green backdrop for a color palette that will have a calming effect. Other therapeutic colors include soft grays, greens, and pinks. Instead of modern and hi-tech steel and glass, choose more natural décor and seating, such as wicker, wood, and stone.

Exercise

Gardening can absolutely provide a solid workout that can improve strength, endurance, and flexibility. It can also reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other medical conditions. However, don’t think you can stand in your yard and water your flowers for five minutes and count that as a workout. “For gardening and yard work to actually provide a beneficial workout, you must garden for at least 30 minutes a day,” says The Telegraph.

Try to use self-made power when you can. That means don’t plug in your equipment. Choose manual clippers and trimmers and a push lawn mower. To keep your heart rate up, try to work at a steady, constant speed. Also, alternate which hands you use by changing positions every 10 minutes when pruning or weeding.

Different gardening activities provide different levels of exercise, so adjust your gardening to your individual needs and capabilities. While watering, planting, and pruning are considered lighter tasks, raking leaves, shoveling snow, and push mowing the lawn are on the more difficult side. Trimming hedges and cutting down bushes are considered moderate level activities.

Nutrition

 A home garden allows you to grow your own food, which means you get to control what is and isn’t used in the garden. If you don’t want to use herbicides, you get to make that decision. Growing your own food is typically less expensive than buying produce in the store. You can grow fruits, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, and even edible flowers.

You can grow a garden in any kind of yard – a big yard, a small yard, and even in no yard at all. No matter what type of garden you grow or which type of yard you have, your health is sure to benefit from your green thumb. You can find more information online or in help books, but the best source will be your local farmers.

Photo Credit: bluebudgie, Pixabay