Garden Your Way to Peace
By: Beth McHugh 2006
If stress and anxiety are regular visitors to your world, then it may be time to head out into the garden for some drug-free (and cash-free) therapy. Any seasoned gardener will tell you that gardening makes you feel better, but as is required by scientific theory, all hypotheses must be proven, and the good news is that gardening has been shown to be beneficial to your mental health.
Stress seems to have become the disease of modern times and people are constantly looking for new ways to feel more at ease with themselves and actually get joy out of living rather than feeling that they are on an endless treadmill of worry and woe. You only have to scan the shelves of your local bookshop to discover that books about reducing stress and anxiety are big sellers. It seems we absorb stress like sponges from the fast-paced world in which we live.
Which is where gardening comes in. Just half an hour in the garden assists in toning and strengthening the physical body. But it is the mental benefits which have scientists most excited at the moment. A study conducted by the Tennessee State University found that people who garden regularly believed that the greatest benefit they received from the act of gardening was not a yard filled with flowers and vegetables. Surprisingly, it was the significant reduction in general stress they felt in their lives. Further studies at Iowa State University concluded that the actions of digging, pruning, cutting, and mulching alleviated stress and tension levels in the body.
Any person who does regular exercise such as walking, running, or regular gym workouts will agree that these activities lower stress levels and increase buoyancy of mood. However, gardening has something extra to offer sufferers of anxiety and depression. Apart from the physical benefits of exercise during gardening, the soothing colors, textures, and smell of plants has an uplifting effect on the mind and spirit. Gardening is like experiencing an aromatherapy session and gym workout in your own backyard! Combine that with the satisfaction of watching seeds and cuttings grow into healthy mature plants, and eating chemical-free produce, and you have a recipe for good mental health right outside your backdoor.
One of the benefits of gardening was highlighted in HealthNewsDigest.com where it was claimed that research in the field of environmental psychology demonstrated that gardening utilizes the non-thinking right side of our brains (the side that is responsible for worrying, intrusive thoughts) and uses mainly the right side of the brain, which is responsible for handling our more creative aspects, including our senses. In short, gardening will help us stop worrying and start focusing on the “here and now”.
So the next time you are feeling depressed, head out into your garden and literally “smell the roses”. If it’s not much of a garden, then start one. Even tending a few pots will have a positive effect on your mood. As the positive effect increases, you will have the desire and energy to make your garden even better. Soon you will be the proud owner of your own outdoor therapy room.
Feelings of anxiety and anger can also be to good use in the garden.
Rigorous chopping and pruning will soon expend pent up rage and nervous
tension. In fact, with the added dimension of aromatherapy, the garden
may be all you need to get you through many a rough patch in your life.