How Gardening Helps Your Over-All-Well-Being
I have never been one to garden, much less farm. My idea of gardening in recent years is to buy flowers and vegetables from the store but certainly not grow them. But as I have watched my husband plant, grow and take such pride in his finished product I am having a change of heart. I have watched from the sidelines the joy he experiences and gives others as they receive the bounty of his labor from Burbage Farm in Hampton County, S.C. Organic farming and gardening for him and many others is a labor of love. But why? Because gardening helps your over-all well-being.
New studies show that spending time working in your garden or yard help the body and brain in similar ways more strenuous activities do. It increases your feeling of accomplishment and that protects your brain by decreasing sadness and depression, both of which contribute to cognitive decline. Repetitive motions of weeding and removing old blooms brings produces positive feelings of control and reduces cortisol, a hormone that increases stress levels in the brain.
As a regular hobby, there aren’t many activities out there that are as tranquil as gardening. It’s about being in nature. It’s soothing to water plants and see them grow, hear birds chirping and filling your own lungs with fresh, clean air. Yes, there are down sides, like bugs and weeds, but all minor compared to the issues that have to be dealt with in extremely stressful situations.
Soil comes with plenty of germs and bacteria, which does not sound like something you want your hands on. However, exposure to these microorganisms, especially for young children, builds immunity against diseases later on in life. A report from the National Wildlife Federation suggests that children who are confined inside run the risk of major health issues such as obesity and vitamin D deficiency. If you are a parent then make sure your kids are participating in fun, outdoor activities and getting dirty.
In addition to strengthening the immune system, dirt also contains a natural antidepressant called Mycobacterium vaccae. According to research, this particular antidepressant microbe causes cytokine levels to increase, which in turns boosts the production of brain-soothing serotonin.
But the intensity of gardening varies, and it’s the hard work kind that has the greatest physical and mental health benefits. The amount of exertion needed for gardening depends on the size of the plot. If you are doing mostly indoor container gardening, you may reap some of the mental benefits but not getting the full advantage. If you are mowing, aerating or shoveling outdoors you are getting a great physical workout. Pruning can also be a good for your upper body. That’s why I am not shocked by the statistic that 3 hours of gardening can equate to 1 hour in a gym (in terms of calories).
That got my attention. In addition, I’ve noticed with my husband, that once he started to care for his own vegetables and herbs, he became more conscious of his overall diet. Gone are the days when he would eat lots of meat, fried and fast food on a frequent basis. On these hot summer days, we often have a healthy salad for dinner full of his fresh vegetables, and we try to avoid anything too greasy or heavy. Hopefully, gardening would have the same impact for anyone else who has had an unhealthy lifestyle.
And for those of us over 50 gardening is a great way to stimulate the brain. Gardening is an activity that includes a bit of everything: physical exercise, social interactions, cognitive learning and more. As reported on CNN, two studies have found that gardening could have a positive influence in reducing the risks of dementia for people in their later years.
So, if you are struggling with finding an “exercise” you enjoy, try gardening and get and maintain a positive well-being that could benefit you now and long into the future.
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