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Health Benefits of Gardening

Now, more than ever, I am appreciating my garden. Being outside working with plants and harvesting fresh vegetables, herbs and flowers has many benefits. Personally, while gardening I not only feel a sense of satisfaction, I also feel connected to the natural world.

In recent years, learning to garden has become standard at schools, nursing homes, prisons, and retirement communities. Research has demonstrated that gardening reduces stress, calms the mind, and provides a sense of well-being. It provides a positive way to channel negative feelings and transform them into more positive emotions. Nurturing plants and being part of creating something beautiful can be soothing and a boost to one’s self-esteem.

Taking care of a garden is good exercise, burns calories and thus raises our levels of serotonin and dopamine which makes us feel better. A study done in Holland demonstrated that gardening for 30 minutes lowered cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone associated with stress. Research at the University of Pennsylvania suggests that the activity associated with 30 minutes of gardening can help you sleep better at night. Other studies tell us that gardening helps to reduce the risk of strokes, heart attacks, and reduces the risk of dementia. Moreover, the Vitamin D from the sun helps our bodies to absorb calcium which is needed for strong bones and lowers the risk for contracting other diseases.

Involving children in gardening often has life-long benefits. By interacting with plants, children develop a stronger bond with the natural world. It has been shown that children become better learners when they have plants around them. A program at a juvenile rehabilitation center showed that gardening helped the youths see themselves in a more positive light. Working with plants helped them better manage their emotional and behavioral problems. A personal friend who grew up in New York City first became intrigued by plants when he sprouted bean seeds in the classroom and this spurred him toward a rewarding career in horticulture.

Also, taking care of plants gives human beings of any age a sense of responsibility and connects them with other living things. Gardening can help us live in the present moment rather than focusing on problems from the past or possibly potential problems in the future.

If you are not currently a gardener but think you might want to give it a try, here are a few tips:

  1. start small so you get a sense for what is involved in having a thriving garden

  2. seeds are a great way to grow edibles and short-lived plants like lettuce, dill, and arugula

  3. add fragrant plants to the garden – inhaling their scents is wonderful for humans and allure beneficial insects to your garden

  4. if you create an outdoor garden design, be sure it can be enjoyed from inside the house as well as enjoyed while relaxing outside

  5. include a bench outside in order to experience the pleasure of sitting in your garden

  6. plants die but it is not always your fault, try again and don’t get discouraged


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