Spending time in the yard may be great for your home’s curbside appeal, but did you know it’s also a fantastic way to stay in shape, both mentally and physically? Studies show that playing in the dirt has the ability to relieve stress, boost immunity, reduce instances of chronic disease, and improve mental health and well being.
So what are the therapeutic reasons for maintaining your backyard paradise? Read on to discover the unexpected health benefits of tending to your tomato plants and rose bushes.
Mindfulness While Minding Your Flowers
Labor-intensive, repetitive tasks are great stress relievers. There’s a reason that an honest day’s work produces a good night’s sleep, reduces tension, and clears the mind.
Another way of looking at gardening is as a form of active meditation. According to experts, gardening regularly helps decrease symptoms of clinical anxiety and depression, aids in regulating emotions, and decreases neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex–which is a fancy way of saying, it helps calm a busy mind. Digging in the dirt allows you to literally connect with nature, tune out your interior chatter, and reexamine what’s truly important.
To reap the mindfulness benefits, choose a gardening task that requires a high level of concentration, i.e. weeding flower beds or clearing dandelions from your yard. You can also get lost by planting a row of new flowers or pruning an overgrown bush. When weeding or pruning, it’s advisable to wear gloves and long sleeves. Also, don’t forget sun protection!
Gardening is Heart Healthy
If you’ve ever shoveled and subsequently hauled a wheelbarrow of mulch from one end of your yard to the next, you know that making your green space magazine-worthy takes a lot of time and energy. For the uninitiated, mulch is a layer of material–straw, woodchips, compost, or rubber–that helps keep weeds at bay and aids in plants’ water retention.
Did you know that your green thumb is actually good for your heart? Just like walking or doing yoga, gardening gets your heart rate up and reduces the risk of diseases most commonly associated with sedentary lifestyles: heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. If you’d much rather rake your yard than hit the gym, gardening provides a, shall we say, “organic” mode of exercise.
Get a Workout Growing Your Own Food
Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” By creating a backyard garden and growing your own organic produce, you’ll save money, eat healthier, and gain a greater appreciation for what it takes to fuel your body. Plus, dinnertime will be exponentially more delicious!
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”Hippocrates
Vegetable Gardening Pointers for Beginners
If you’ve never had a vegetable garden before, it’s a good idea to have the soil tested for lead and other harmful properties. If you don’t have the time or money to do this, or suspect your soil might be compromised, another option is to construct raised beds. Raised beds are easy to make and relatively inexpensive–just make sure you use untreated wood to keep your produce as chemical-free as possible.
Other tips for keeping your plants chemical free: plant marigolds around the perimeter of your garden beds to deter insects without the use of pesticides. And, if you’re worried about critters snacking on your vegetables, use a spray bottle filled with a mixture of cayenne pepper and water to dissuade deer and rabbits from eating on your hard-earned produce.
Share the Wealth and Save Money
You can save money on seeds and supplies by consulting your local library; many libraries offer free seeds from their heirloom seed catalogues, and some even allow you to rent out power tools, shovels, and garden equipment. If your local library doesn’t have a tool-lending library, consider creating your own tool-sharing system with neighbors and friends. It’s a great way to build community, save money, and share best practices with like-minded hobbyists.
Gardening Helps With Brain Health
Horticulture therapy can be very theraputic for dementia patients because it connects them to something tactile and peaceful, and they’re able to socialize in a low-stress environment. Similarly, domestic violence crisis centers increasingly use therapy gardens as a way to help victims recover from trauma. If you don’t have enough space in your home for a large garden, consider volunteering at a therapy garden. You’ll get a good workout and meet some amazing people in the process.
The Holistic Approach
Gardening provides a fantastic means for staying in shape because it calms the mind, engages the body, and invigorates the spirit. By committing to a gardening practice every day, you’ll decrease stress, improve mental well being, connect to nature, and live a happier, healthier life.
How has gardening improved your life? Sound off in the comments below.