Seriously, since I have been working on my PhD in Psychology, I have found out so many things that can help with your mental health including coffee, chocolate, and yes, even gardening. In fact, gardening is actually considered an aerobic exercise. So gardening is not just good for your yard, it is good for your mental and physical health. There are many reasons that gardening is good for you and some that you probably already know. But I am going to go over all of the ones that I know of and if you know some more, feel free to put it in the comments!
There are many ways to relieve anxiety but for someone who loves gardening or just being outside, finding out that gardening is good to relieve anxiety is a big bonus. You're welcome! According to a study done in the Netherlands, two groups of college students were asked to either read indoors or garden for 30 minutes after doing a stressful activity like algebra, statistics, or calculus and according to the results, those who did the gardening found that they were in a better mood. Their cortisol levels were decreased and that is the hormone that causes stress. This may be due to being outdoors, enjoying gardening, or some other weird connection like digging in the dirt.
Speaking of digging in the dirt, digging in soil is really supposed to be good for you. Another study, done by an assistant professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado, found that something in the dirt may be good for you. This professor injected mice with Mycobacterium vaccae, which is a harmless bacteria commonly found in soil, and found that those mice with the injected bacteria had more serotonin in their body than the ones who did not get the injections. Serotonin is a hormone that controls mood and cognitive functions and is the main ingredient in many antidepressant drugs. So, basically, the mice were not as depressed as their neighbor mice that did not get the injections. There have been similar studies with humans that back up that fact.
As I mentioned before, gardening is actually considered an aerobic exercise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that you can burn up to 350 calories with just 60 minutes of light yard work and gardening. That is more than lifting weights for an hour! In fact, the National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends 45 minutes of gardening or yard work at least four times a week for helping to keep the pounds off. Not only that but you will usually work up a sweat and sweating is good for you too. It cleans the pores of toxins and bacteria. So go out and get sweaty.
Vitamin D is an important vitamin in many ways such as boosting your calcium levels, makes your immune system healthier, and improves your mood. And one of the easiest ways to get this vitamin is from the sun! There have been many studies done that prove Vitamin D from sunlight is beneficial to mood and helps relieve seasonal affective disorder (SAD). In fact, the NIH recommends between 10 and 30 minutes of sun exposure twice a week between the hours of 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM. But don’t overdo it. Too much sun can give you a sunburn, damage your skin, and even causes skin cancer. Any kind of daytime outdoor activities will boost your Vitamin D levels but gardening is even more beneficial because many of the things you can grow in your garden can increase your Vitamin D levels as well. For example, soybeans are an excellent source of Vitamin D as well as other vitamins and can be easily grown in the garden.
Eat What You Sow
If you are growing vegetables or fruit in your garden, there is another advantage to gardening. The vegetables and fruit are good for you. Not just for your health but for your mind. In fact, many fruits and veggies can reduce your chances of getting cancer. That alone is enough reason to eat some and it will also put you in a better mood. Eating leafy greens can increase those vitamins that boost tryptophan, which is a chemical that regulates your moods. Beans are great for protein and eating more protein can help give you energy and regulate calories. Celery is one of the best foods you can eat because not only is it low in calories (10 calories per serving) but it also has over a dozen antioxidants such as Vitamin C, lutein, and beta-carotene.
Grow Plants That Heal
Of course, everyone has probably heard that Aloe vera can help heal burns. But there are other plants that can help heal. Lavender makes an essential oil that relieves anxiety and depression. Peppermint alleviates irritable bowel syndrome, fights cold and flu, and can even give you energy. Rosemary is an antioxidant and antibacterial. And the hibiscus is not just pretty, it can also relieve pain, reduce fever, and fights skin cancer and high cholesterol. Some say it can also relieve high blood pressure and increase fertility! So, get out in the garden and get dirty and sweaty and then come in and eat some of those veggies and flowers.