02-07-2015 by 

What is it about gardening? Plant, prune, hoe, dig and prune. Take a break when cold weather rolls in and start the entire process again when the ground thaws in spring. Doesn’t it all sound like a heck of a lot of work for a few pretty flowers, a manicured lawn or a basket of fresh vegetables?

Whether a garden consists of a back yard the size of a football field or a few containers on the front step, gardeners know that growing and caring for living plants provides a sense of deep satisfaction and well-being. Most avid gardeners don’t require scientific evidence, but there’s plenty of research to indicate that it’s a fact: gardening is good for the brain.

Feeling Cranky?              

  • A recent study confirms what gardeners already know – an hour or two in the garden elevates mood and relieves stress. When researchers asked gardeners how the activity affects their outlook on life, nearly 100 percent of those queried responded that spending time with nature changed their depressed or anxious mood to feelings of balance and calm. Moreover, many people say that gardening provides emotional and spiritual comfort during difficult times.
  • It could be that gardening is simply a distraction from cares and worries or a peaceful activity that reduces mental fatigue by screening out the busy, stressful world. However, some experts believe that the need is primal and that humans are naturally hard-wired to enjoy a connection with nature.
  • Experts at University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Charlson Meadows note that human beings are linked to nature on a fundamental, spiritual level. Gardening provides an opportunity to reflect on the cycles of nature, our place in the world and our connection to other people. [2]
  • However you want to explain it, there’s no doubt that gardening makes people happy.

Boost Your Brain Power

  • Gardening is a relaxing, rewarding activity for people of any age, but for Baby Boomers and beyond, it offers unexpected benefits -- it keeps the brain sharp and agile. According to the Australia’s Permaculture Research Institute, people who garden regularly in their sixties, seventies and beyond are at least 30 percent less likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease than their non-gardening counterparts. [1]
  • According to Garden Organic and Sustain, one study indicates that for people who already suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, horticultural activities are more effective for memory and overall mental functioning than cooking or crafts. [4]

If you haven’t started gardening yet, it’s never too late to grab a shovel and dig in. The sooner you get started, the sooner you can enjoy the many benefits.

1. Eliades, Angelo. The Permaculture Research Institute. Wellbeing Gardening – Gardening for the Body, Mind and Spirit. http://permaculturenews.org/2013/06/05/wellbeing-gardening-gardening-for-the-body-mind-spirit/
2. University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality and Healing. “What Are Healing Gardens?” http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/healing-environment/what-are-healing-gardens
3. Loughborough University. “Research Shows Gardening is Good for Health and Well-Being.” http://www.lboro.ac.uk/service/publicity/news-releases/2005/38_thrive.html
4. Garden Organic and Sustain. “The Benefits of Gardening and Food Growing for Health and Wellbeing.” http://bosf.org.uk/birmingham-open-spaces-forum/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/GrowingHealth_BenefitsReport.pdf

Image Credit: Mandy Godbehear © 123RF.com (used under license) 

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