Contributed by guest blogger, Maria Cannon

Gardening is a true utility hobby. It provides stimulation for the mind, body, and soul. It allows you to be both creative and scientific. It gives you physical exercise, but it’s not prohibitive. Here’s why gardening is a great way to boost overall wellness and why that’s important to those coping with mental issues.

Gardening helps you de-stress

Studies have shown that gardening is a great way to reduce stress in your life. For one, flowers are beautiful and fragrant. They have a calming effect on most people. But it’s not just about the pretty flowers. Even vegetable gardens can have a stress-busting effect. The main reason gardening is so good at relieving stress is that it is an escape—an escape from your troubles and responsibilities; an escape from other people; an escape from a rigid world bereft of natural beauty. Not only that, but the simple act of working with your hands is peaceful.

Physical activity that leads to a mental boost

Gardening is a hobby that anyone can enjoy—from kids to seniors, and the super fit to the couch potato. It gives a decent workout to almost everyone, but is pretty low impact. Working in a garden for an hour raking, digging, mowing, and moving stones burns almost as many calories as light jogging. This activity not only helps to tone your physique, but it also gives a boost to your mind. As Harvard Health puts it, “the benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors.” These growth factors affect brain cell health. Feeling happier when you get enough physical activity isn’t just a placebo effect or a feeling of satisfaction, it’s actually a chemical reaction.

Gardening as a way to fight depression and anxiety 

Many adhere to a certain approach to battling depression and anxiety—mindfulness. It involves focusing on the moment, taking in what’s good about the present and letting cares about past problems and future worries fall away. As points out, gardening gives us tons of opportunities to be mindful. Rich colors, enchanting smells, and the texture of soil all stimulate our senses and help us stay in the present. Settling tasks and achieving goals also helps us build self-esteem and self-worth. Growing and caring for plants definitely provides opportunities for achievements.

In the end, feeling like we are a part of something bigger (in gardening’s case this means nature and the life cycle) always helps to stave off the feelings of hopelessness that come with depression. 

How gardening can help prevent unhealthy coping mechanisms 

Without healthy outlets to help us cope with stress, anxiety, and depression, humans may turn to quick, easy fixes that are unhealthy and wind up not fixing anything at all. Activities that boost overall mental health, such as gardening, deter us from behaviors that will only make the problem worse.

Is gardening a perfect hobby? If you’re not really into getting your hands dirty then maybe not. But it’s about as close as you’re going to come. Very few activities provide this level of stress relief, esteem and worth boost, and brain stimulation. These benefits are vital—especially for those suffering from mental issues that could alternatively lead them down a dark path.

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