The Mental Health Benefits of Gardening
If you garden, then you know of its uncanny knack for saturating your mood with good vibes. In fact, digging your hands and feet in the earth is scientifically proven to reduce inflammation, anxiety, and depression and enhance positive feeling states and improved mental health. Let’s unpack the (sometimes surprising) reasons why gardening is nature’s own happy pill.
Gardening Puts You in a Zen Place
When you’re focused on the immediate needs of your garden, it’s easy to be joyful because you’re truly living in the “now” where there are no worries of the future or complaints about the past. This is the sweet spot every meditator hopes cultivate, and boom, there you are, hands in the dirt, meditative af, no mala beads or mantras required.
Gardening Exemplifies the Manifestation Process
You hold a seed in your hand. It’s full of potential. You place it in the womb-like, fecund darkness of the earth. You nurture it with water and fertilizer, and positive intentions, and eventually, with the help of the sunlight that is inherent to our planetary existence, something beautiful grows. If that’s not a metaphor for how to make your dreams come true, what is?
Gardening Teaches You How to Surrender
Are you a perfectionist? Do you hold on a little too tightly, or feel the need to control everyone and everything around you? Gardening can help with that. When you step into the garden, you’re stepping into Mother Nature’s house, and her rules aren’t the same as y’all’s. Things happen in the garden we can never predict. Some are good, some are less than desired, but the point is, you can’t actually control a lot of it. All you can do is show up with your whole heart and do your best… and in the garden, that’s good enough.
Gardening is a Form of Forest Bathing
The Japanese expression "shinrin-yoku" translates to “bathing in the forest atmosphere.” Also called Forest Bathing, shinrin-yoku is the practice of taking in the forest through the senses. Gardening takes you there, and the benefits are vast. All that’s required is an absence of devices or other distractions. Let yourself be guided by your senses and intuitively commune with the sights, sounds, and scents of your garden. In no time, you’re likely to experience a reduction of stress hormones, an increased sense of self-esteem, greater focus, and expanded overall happiness.
Gardening Offers Community
We need each other to be happy. Bonding over gardening with others is wholesome and builds community. Gardening can open pathways to social connections and broaden our support systems, which is integral for good mental health.
Gardening Improves Microbiome Diversity
Digging in the dirt positively impacts the health of your gut, which has myriad mood benefits. How does gardening do this exactly? By expanding the diversity of your microbiome, you are actually doing good things for your mood. Soil and the human gut contain approximately the same number of active microorganisms, while human gut microbiome diversity is only 10% that of soil biodiversity and has decreased dramatically with our modern lifestyles. Getting your hands in the soil, and (even better) eating food straight out of your garden, expands that diversity, which helps benefit your immune digestive systems. (To learn more about the correlation between soil and gut biomes, here is a comprehensive study published by NCBI. To learn more about the gut-mood connection, here is an interview with triple board-certified MD, Dr. Zach Bush, on the importance of microbiome diversity.)
Now put down your device and go harvest some happiness in your garden!