This article may contain affiliate links. We get paid a small commission from your purchases. More Affiliate Policy
Increased awareness of the world’s challenges and a sense of limited personal agency negatively impact mental health.
There is a biological reason why people exposed to repeated stressors, such as feelings of powerlessness in given situations, may develop unhealthy coping strategies and health issues. Fortunately, there is even more evidence that gardening has restorative physical and mental health benefits.
Elevate your mental health with the power of gardening. From boosting self-esteem to reducing stress, gardening has many physical and mental health benefits. Get your hands dirty and experience the positive impact of connecting with nature, exercising and taking control.
Table of Contents
- Physical and Mental Health Indicators
- 10 Gardening Mental Health Benefits
- FAQs on the Mental Health and Well-Being Benefits of Gardening
Physical and Mental Health Indicators
10 Physical Health Indicators
- Body weight and composition (BMI)
- Cardiovascular fitness (blood pressure, heart rate)
- Strength and flexibility
- Endurance (stamina)
- Breathing capacity
- Coordination and balance
- Sense of vitality
- Pain tolerance
- Nutrition and hydration status
- Sleep quality and patterns.
10 Mental Health Indicators
- Mood and emotional fluctuation
- Sense of self-esteem and self-worth
- Concentration and memory
- Communication and social connections
- Problem-solving and decision-making skills
- Resilience (Coping mechanisms for stress and adversity)
- Sleep patterns
- Energy levels and fatigue
- Appetite and eating habits
- Interest in hobbies and daily activities.
10 Gardening Mental Health Benefits
There are hundreds of mental health benefits to gardening. Our challenge is the initial inertia common to people suffering from mental health problems. There’s an ambivalence between knowing the benefits gardening activities offer and getting our hands dirty.
I’ve listed the ten benefits of gardening and how these contributed to improving my mental health. If you know you’re prone to procrastination, get an allotment or a space in a community garden.
Several public health organizations offer social and therapeutic horticulture classes which may help you break the entry barrier to greater physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
We are all fearfully and wonderfully made, and stuff happens to us that we feel may crush us (at least, I do). I occasionally suffer from anxiety and depression, but gardening has been a saving grace. Below are the ten most prominent psychological benefits I get from gardening.
Connecting with Nature
Nature always feels more significant than me, more enduring and stable, yet sometimes tempestuous and destructive, giving rise to new beginnings. Spending time in nature has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.
When we give ourselves the time to connect with nature, see the trees and their leaves, feel the ground beneath our feet and listen to birds and crickets, it positively impacts our whole being.
We don’t have to do anything, just be there and connect, using our senses to hear, feel, see, smell, and taste. I appreciate the dependence of an enormous tree on fungi so small the human eye cannot see them.
The interdependence is fantastic; the earth depends on rain, the bird on the insects or seeds, and the field mouse needs a place to feel safe. And then there is what we don’t see beneath our feet, a billion microorganisms in a teaspoon of soil.
Everything is interdependent, and the Sun is central to everything, giving its energy to all green to fuel everything alive. These green spaces convert the Sun’s energy into carbohydrates and oxygen, absorbing carbon dioxide and converting some carbohydrates into fats and proteins, the building blocks for cellular development.
Your green space may not be the garden of Eden, but it is a fountain of life. Start in small increments, visiting it once a week, increasing your time in nature. Give it time, and you will feel the muscle tension dissolve and your focus shift.
Humans have been deprived of nature’s remedy and the therapeutic benefits, some of which we don’t fully understand. Research suggests that immersion in nature is linked to increased creativity and improved problem-solving abilities.
Spending time in nature can help reduce distractions, improve the immune system’s functioning, and increase happiness, relaxation, and overall well-being.
Resilience refers to the ability of a system, organism, or person to effectively cope with and recover from stress, adversity, or change. It is characterized by flexibility, adaptability, and the ability to bounce back in the face of challenges.
In psychology, resilience is often used to describe an individual’s capacity to withstand and recover from adverse events, while in biology, it refers to the ability of a system to continue functioning even after experiencing disruptions or failures.
Trees are exceptional examples of resilience, and some of the most characterful trees are those with a slant, broken branches, regrowth, and stripped bark, yet surviving. They have endured storms, pest attacks, lightning strikes, and damage from other falling trees. Some grow in the minimal ground between rocks, yet they endure.
When I tell my plants that they can do it, I hear their echo, “So can you!”
Alcoholics Anonymous 12-Step Program has a central tenet of success; as long as you are helping others, your success is more likely. We are energized by giving but are often weary of our ability to make a difference or have a positive impact.
Starting a garden allows us to grow things of beauty and functionality. One of the most significant benefits of gardening is growing your food – vegetables, herbs, and fruit. Start small, create small wins, celebrate the wins (and near wins), and learn from the experience before moving to more significant projects.
But growing your food isn’t the only factor that gardening adds to your well-being. Believe it or not, failing is good if you allow the experience to expand your repertoire of skills—even if they’re imperfect. Even master gardeners fail occasionally; it’s how they learn.
A growth mindset assumes that we are always learning. When our gardening efforts flop, we see it as a learning experience rather than a “failure.” There are several reasons that master gardeners like myself can have a failed crop; it’s part of horticultural activities.
Gardening success, in varying amounts, is nature’s gift to us, not a sign of our greatness. And when we have less success for whatever reason, we’re not defined as not having green thumbs or being incompetent. Gardening failure is always a learning opportunity—a growth opportunity.
Exercising Made Fun
Research shows that posture, even in pretense, triggers the release of healthy hormones to reduce stress and build strength. Lifting your arms above your head in a victory stance, for instance, triggers a release of hormones that increases the likelihood of future success.
Even making your bed as soon as you get up creates a sense of order and organization, helping to set the tone for a productive day. If the small bed-making can trigger a slight sense of accomplishment, boosting your mood and reducing stress, imagine what making a garden bed will do. Even caring for indoor plants adds purpose and is helpful.
The table below shows some additional gardening tasks and the benefits gardeners may find.
|Task||Benefit for Reducing…|
|Planting seeds and nurturing seedlings||Stress, Anxiety|
|Weeding and removing dead plants||Stress|
|Pruning and trimming||Anxiety|
|Soil preparation and composting||Depression|
|Watering and caring for plants||Stress, Anxiety, Depression|
|Observing wildlife and nature while gardening||Stress, Anxiety, Depression|
Vitamin D, sourced from the Sun, is an essential nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium, regulates the immune system, and has been linked to improved heart health. Yes, sunlight lowers blood pressure and improves cholesterol levels.
Vitamin D has also been shown to positively impact mood and mental health, potentially reducing the risk of depression and other mood disorders.
I mention Sunlight, but even indoor gardening has many benefits, but body exercise is not one of them. The psychological benefits of gardening are extensive, but the physical activity benefits are more closely associated with outdoor gardening.
Even lighter physical activity, like stretching, is beneficial. Depending on your age and initial health, you can add strength work and more complex exercise routines to your time in the garden. Please don’t overdo it, allowing a natural progression to more excellent fitness. Over-exertion may cause damage, setting you back a while.
The combined benefits of gardening, physical activity, and time in the sun will also help you sleep better, and nothing is as beneficial as a good night’s sleep—it’s the only time we get to recover and grow.
It is important to note that more research is needed to fully understand the benefits of vitamin D and how it works in the body. However, maintaining adequate vitamin D levels through diet, sun exposure, and supplements can benefit overall health.
Exercise translates into improved physical health, and when we’re feeling strong, it improves mental health. The positive effects on mental and physical health include a general sense of well-being, and gardening can play a crucial role in getting these. Exercise is especially important in delaying the onset of dementia.
The Power Threat Meaning Framework (PTMF) is fast becoming a popular way of replacing the labels used to categorize mental health challenges with a broader understanding. We all experience some form of threat from those who have power over us.
Part of being able to live with the threat is by attaching meaning to the relationships by weighing the risks against possible benefits. In healthy power relationships, this is easy, but the balancing act can be highly stressful for people in poorly balanced relationships with bosses, colleagues, spouses, partners, family members, and others.
I need regular green space therapy when life gets too much. My garden allows me to create order, exercise some control, and grow some vegetables. The sun does me good; the exercise will enable me to vent some pent-up frustrations, and a gardening environment is the best place for me.
I focus on soil health, working my way up the plant to check their health and the challenges they may face. Adversity is a part of life, and gardens are an excellent environment to exercise my skills, ensuring my plants thrive. I share a common goal with every plant in my garden: success.
Some people will say they owe their lives to their pets, partners, or parents; I owe my improved mental health to my allotment in a community garden and you, my readers. The positive impact of gardening and sharing my journey is instrumental to my continued well-being.
I enjoy making mistakes because they allow me to learn something new. Through gardening mishaps, you learn what happened and why it happened. Forgiving your garden, the pest, and even the diseases allow you to move on and stay grounded. It’s not the end of the world; it’s a new learning opportunity. More mistakes equal more learning and growth.
The hardest thing to do is forgive yourself for the things you’ve done or failed to do, for stupid decisions made in youthful (or passionate) ignorance. Gardening cycles are short, and learning what works doesn’t take years. Forgive yourself for the previous season’s mistakes, and try again—gardens are forgiving, and you should be too.
There is no perfect way of gardening as each garden is different. Your climate, microorganisms, soil type, pest challenges, and time availability differ from the next person. Even in community gardens and adjacent garden beds—there are so many factors that influence soil health and plant success that empathy is part of having a garden.
Research shows that gardening success is part of science, art, and luck. If you don’t first succeed, try, and try again. Gardening has been shown to improve mindfulness practice and empathy.
The Value of Healthy Routines
The ARC Framework has helped millions of young people worldwide develop the skills required for healthier adult lives. Early research showed that if reduced to its essentials, we all need attachment, regulation, and competence to live fulfilling lives.
Attachment, especially in children, is the confidence that tomorrow is safe, that somebody loves me and will look out for me, and that life, for the most part, is predictable. That predictability is helped by developing routines. Gardening is an excellent platform to develop healthy routines, and the intensity of those routines depends on what you’re growing. For instance, the soil of lettuce gardens needs to be kept moist.
Self-regulation is the effectiveness with which you can regulate your feelings, thoughts, and physical expressions. Part of that is awareness and the skill in identifying, understanding, tolerating and managing internal experience. Emotions are roadsigns to internal feelings, not instructions to act upon.
The C in ARC refers to competencies, the skills to do things like gardening. Growing a garden and the skill of caring for plants is so extraordinary that people claim others have green thumbs. Any endeavor stuck to for some time allows one to improve in competency. Don’t give up after three tries; the fourth will make you competent, boosting your self-worth and others’ opinions of you.
Gardening has routines in routines, from seasonal, to weekly and even daily. You grow attached to your plants and the soil biota and become aware of nature’s ways. Success is exhilarating, and failure is part of gardening. Learning to roll with the blows spills over into your life and is generally beneficial. Routines are especially helpful for people suffering from dementia.
Many people have anxiety symptoms that may not always progress to the level of a diagnosable anxiety disorder. When anything falls into the disorder category, it causes significant distress in daily life and interferes with daily activities such as work, socializing, and school.
However, a sizable proportion of the population suffers from anxiety symptoms that do not interfere with daily life. They can still manage and get things done, which may generate a lot of stress.
Gardeners attribute working with plants as a stress diffuser. Some research shows that being electrically earthed (in direct contact with terra firma) has health benefits and improves sleep. It’s not a novel idea; we are dust, and the ground is our final resting place.
People suffering from acute pain also attest that being grounded daily helps alleviate the aches and pains.
Self-Esteem and Self-Worth
Self-esteem refers to an individual’s overall sense of self-worth or personal value. It encompasses people’s beliefs and attitudes about themselves, including their strengths, weaknesses, and unique qualities.
A person’s opinion of themselves can be influenced by various factors, including childhood experiences, relationships, cultural and societal expectations, and personal successes and failures. Many of these factors are difficult to control, but gardeners are often very confident in their gardens.
The confidence we develop in one area may spill out into other areas. Success breads success, and it’s hard to dispute a successful garden. The mere effect of taking the initiative to start a garden is a success. Whether you’re growing food or roses, it’s a statement of proactivity, something you can be proud of, moving from the idea of a thing to manifesting it in a garden filled with plants.
Healthy Eating Habits
Food and nutrition are not synonyms; not all food is nutritious. Food gardening is one of the most satisfying forms of gardening. I have many articles to help you grow your food. You don’t need a massive garden; several vegetables can be grown using container gardening.
FAQs on the Mental Health and Well-Being Benefits of Gardening
In conclusion, gardening presents a rare convergence of physical and mental health benefits, with its impact on both indicators being genuinely remarkable. From promoting healthy routines and reducing stress to facilitating growth and developing forgiveness, gardening has the power to enrich our lives in numerous ways.
Whether you are seeking to exercise in fun and engaging way or want to connect with nature and boost your self-esteem, gardening is an excellent choice. Observing the physical health indicators and the mental health benefits, such as resilience and well-being, makes it easy to see why gardening has become a popular form of self-care. So, why not embrace the benefits of gardening today and allow its transformative power to enrich your life?
Don’t miss out on the latest and greatest in gardening and its impact on mental health and well-being! Sign up for our newsletter to receive exclusive articles and updates straight to your inbox. Complete the form below to get started.