Ed Note: This post on some of the benefits of gardening was submitted by Maria Cannon, one of our readers. Thank you, Maria.
Help Relieve Depression Through Backyard Gardening by Maria Cannon
Some gardening benefits – As someone who has suffered from depression and anxiety, I have managed to channel those issues through hobbies like quilting, sewing and knitting. But several years ago I took up gardening and it was therapeutic in a different way from my other hobbies. Being outside, digging in the dirt, and being able to watch the progression of my work each spring offers a boost that I feel physically and mentally.
In some ways, you spend most of your time in a box. Think about it. You wake in your house, go straight to your car, head into a building, go back into your car, and head into your home. Spending all that time indoors can be surprisingly tiring.
That’s because you’re a natural organism. Humans evolved in nature, so when people are deprived of it, they suffer. Sure, there’s the physical health problems of poor air quality and sick building syndrome. But there’s also the mental health problems of depression and stressors.
New research is starting to show a surprising cure for both physical and mental health problems: gardening. It’s a way to get outside and be with nature, but it’s controlled and something almost anyone can do at home. Believe it or not, you can help fight depression by building a garden in your backyard.
There are many causes to depression and similar mental health issues. One that only recently has been getting attention is the lack of connection with nature. Dubbed the “nature-deficit disorder,” it’s not an actual diagnosis. Instead, it describes how people need to be in nature from time to time, and how our modern society makes that harder.
It’s easy to find yourself staying indoors for days at a time. With video games, smartphones, and work tasks, you could spend a lot of time staring at a screen. But it’s not just technology that’s a problem, as you could suffer from a nature deficit by staying in and reading books all day long.
This problem is especially bad with children. If they grow up in an environment lacking anything natural, they can suffer from childhood obesity and similar problems. None of that is good for their mental health either.
Gardening For Mental Health
How can gardening help with your depression? There are several ways:
Spending time outdoors in nature can boost your mental energy.
Working with plants and helping them grow can improve your confidence and self-esteem.
Much like with mediation, simple gardening tasks like weeding or planting can promote mindfulness.
Growing something makes you feel more connected to the world.
Then there’s the simple fact that gardening has fewer stressors. Technology is wonderful, but between emails and social media, there’s always something demanding your attention in an obvious, almost rude way.
The opposite is true for gardening. It’s a calm, mindful activity that brings you back down to earth (literally). When you’re in the backyard gardening, you hear wind and birdsong. You have no one demanding you explain anything, and there are no pressures to get more work done. It’s just you and the garden.
Gardening For Physical Health
Your body and mind are interconnected. If you’re stressed, you are more likely to get a cold. And if you’re not eating right, you’re more likely to feel lethargic and depressed. Thankfully, gardening can help with physical problems as well.
Gardening is hard work. You end up using many muscle groups while you turn the soil, dig, plant seeds, pull weeds, and more. In fact, the CDC says that gardening can help with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and more.
Then there’s the nutritional benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables. It’s hard to beat taking something from your backyard in terms of freshness.
Fight Depression With A Garden
Gardening isn’t a magical cure. You’re not suddenly going to be free of depression the moment your hand hits the soil. But research shows that spending time outdoors with a garden has the physical and mental health benefits you need to fight depression and win.