After COVID-19, there has been a spike in mental health issues that has affected people in many ways. Research has shown that green spaces and nature have a positive impact on mental health. Even a simple park with trees can positively impact one’s wellbeing. Gardening has also been shown to be beneficial to physical and mental wellbeing and health. Gardening helps an individual feel oneness with nature, increases happiness, and lowers the risk for many mental illnesses. It is said, “Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years.” -Unknown.
Greenspaces near prisons, hospitals, and schools seem to help mental health. One study found that, prisons that had more green spaces around them had lower levels of self-harm and violence among inmates (Moran, et al., 2021). Green spaces also have a beneficial impact on patients in hospitals. A study done at Khadija Mahmood Trust Hospital found that green spaces created an atmosphere of relaxation and lower stress levels and improved clinical outcomes through reducing pain medication intake and shorter hospitalization (Raiz, et al., 2010). Greenspaces can be beneficial to overall mental health, but another way to further improve one’s mental health is to garden.
Although pharmaceuticals can be effective for a variety of medical conditions, they can still be expensive and have the risk of side effects. This can be extremely serious for elderly people. Fortunately, recent studies have shown that gardening can be a holistic therapy that can reduce stress, anxiety, and increase the wellbeing of patients (Thompson, 2018). A survey done by Mintel for the charity Thrive, showed that people with disabilities were more than likely to list gardening as a hobby (Thompson, 2018). Furthermore, the survey showed that 87% of people had access to a garden and two-thirds owned a garden. In northern Europe, patients who have a mental health disorder, drug dependency, disabilities, as well as elderly people are recommended to work on farms that involve animals (Thompson, 2018). Not only does the exposure to being outside impact one’s health, but growing vegetables can have a positive effect on one’s diet. When one grows vegetables, they are more likely to eat fresher produce which has a positive effect on one’s happiness. For instance, “serotonin is synthesized from the essential amino acid tryptophan, which is orally ingested and found in foods such as bananas, pineapples, plums, turkey, and milk” (Sansone, 2013). Gardening and growing produce overall helps ones physical and mental wellbeing.
Gardening and working on farms effect the body in many ways. For example, it combines physical activity and exposure to nature and sunlight. Being outside in natural sun light can lead to lower blood pressure and increases vitamin D. In addition, people suffering from arthritis garden because it is a great exercise that helps maintain range of motion and keeps joints flexible and moving. Gardening for at least 30 minutes is equivalent to moderate intensity physical activity. According to one study, “Older gardeners also reported better overall physical health and hand function abilities than nongardening older adults…and improvement in cardiovascular fitness was expected because gardening activities elevated the heart rate of participants” (Park & Shoemaker, 2008). Because gardening can require weight bearing motions, it has also been shown to influence whole-body bone mineral density. Gardening includes digging holes, carrying soil, and pulling weeds. That in itself is satisfies moderate physical activity, especially for older people.
Whenever anyone is sad, it is advised to take a walk outside and then evaluate the situation. Most of the time, people will report feeling better about whatever it is that is going on. Many people enjoy plants because they are a living thing and can influence people around them. When society is failing or one loses connections, gardens can play an important role in building a natural environment and supporting the mental health of that person. Hall goes on to say that plants can help memory and increase attention span. Even just spending time in nature improved one’s overall mood. Gardening and plants can also reduce depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. Gardening for instance, gives one a responsibility and distracts the mind from whatever was bothering it. It gives one the ability to focus on something meaningful. Not only does it distract the mind but being surrounded by greenery and sun helps brighten one’s mood.
Gardening and being around plants have shown to decrease depression, reduced effects of dementia, and improve overall self-esteem. In a Korean study, patients were assigned to cognitive-behavioral therapy groups. One of the groups were placed in an arboretum while others were either in a hospital or in a community outpatient setting. The group assigned to the arboretum setting showed the most reduced depressive symptoms. In addition, those patients had lower levels of cortisol, (the stress hormone) and lower heart rates.
Nature can also help reduce effects of dementia, where someone loses their memory and has difficulty with problem solving and thinking abilities. A study in Michigan revealed that patients who go on walks in nature had a 20% improvement in working memory. Patients who work in gardens or landscaping were more actively engaged which improved cognitive capacity. Patients who spent time outside, whether the activity was gardening or exercising, showed major improvements in overall self-esteem. According to a multi-study analysis, “Every green environment improved both self-esteem and mood and the presence of water generated greater effects” (Hall & Knuth, 2019).
Gardening and being outside has only shown positive effects on the human body and mental health. Whether gardening is being used as a holistic therapy or for leisure, it can help strengthen the mind and body. Go outside, go for a walk, sit in nature, play with plants-it will be worth it.
Moran, D., Jones, P.I., Jordaan, J.A., & Porter, A.E. (2021) Does Nature Contact in Prison Improve Well-Being? Mapping Land Cover to Identify the Effect of Greenspace on Self-Harm and Violence in Prisons in England and Wales, Annals of the American Association of Geographers,111:6,1779-1795,DOI:10.1080/24694452.2020.1850232
Hall , C., & Knuth, M. (2019) An update of the literature supporting the well-being … Retrieved October 7, 2021, from https://ellisonchair.tamu.edu/files/2019/07/An-Update-of-the-Literature-Supporting-the-Well-Being-Benefits-of-Plants-A-Review-of-the-Emotional-and-Mental-Health-Benefits-of-Plants.pdf.
Sin-Ae Park & Candice A. Shoemaker (2009) Observing Body Position of Older Adults While Gardening for Health Benefits and Risks, Activities, Adaptation & Aging, 33:1, 31-38, DOI: 10.1080/01924780902718582
Riaz, A., Younis, A., Ali, W., & Hameed, M. (2010). Well-planned green spaces improve medical outcomes, satisfaction and quality of care: A trust hospital case study. Retrieved October 14, 2021, from https://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?recordID=US201400111091
Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2013). Sunshine, serotonin, and skin: a partial explanation for seasonal patterns in psychopathology?. Innovations in clinical neuroscience, 10(7-8), 20–24.
Thompson R. (2018). Gardening for health: a regular dose of gardening. Clinical medicine (London, England), 18(3), 201–205. https://doi.org/10.7861/clinmedicine.18-3-201