Gardening Your Way to Health and Happiness

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Are you one of the millions of people around the country and the world that has a garden? If you are, you probably know how much enjoyment comes with tending to your own plants. If you don't have a garden yet, you might be surprised at just how many benefits gardening offers. With a hobby so simple to get started, what are you waiting for?


Benefits of gardening:


Gardening has an obvious benefit- it supplies you with fresh food. There is not much better than slicing a freshly-picked, homegrown tomato for your sandwiches. Or crunching on a fresh cucumber in your salad. If you have a successful and large enough garden, you may not need to buy certain types of fresh produce from a store all summer long. This can be a real money saver.


But did you know that gardening also offers health benefits? That's right! You can reap both mental and physical health benefits from getting your hands dirty, literally. In fact, we recently added a new seating area in our garden, and it's now my favorite place to sit and have breakfast or lunch, or to get some work done. If you're ready to learn more about all the amazing things gardening has to offer, let's go!



Physical benefits:


Tending to a garden gives us plenty of sunlight. Sunlight helps to naturally balance our blood pressure. It also provides us with vitamin D. Vitamin D is necessary for our bodies to absorb calcium, and without proper calcium absorption, our bones become weak and will be easier to fracture. This is a big deal as we age, as we aren't able to recover from broken bones as easily. Vitamin D may also offer us protection from other diseases as well, such as various cancers or depression. Though its exact role is not known, it can't hurt, right? One caveat- make sure you're wearing high-quality sunscreen to keep yourself safe from too much of the sun's goodness.


Getting active each day helps keep our bodies in optimum health. We all know that we should be exercising for at least half an hour every day, but many of us don't love to work out. If you are one of those people (like I am), you might see gardening as tons of fun while also getting in those active minutes. Digging, planting, mowing, tilling, weeding, and other garden activities all help burn calories and are great cardio.


Things such as pruning, weeding, and picking your produce can all help maintain joint health in your hands and boost dexterity. This can be especially beneficial if you are at risk of developing arthritis. Investing in a good pair of pruners can really help a lot. I have been through many cheap pairs that never worked quite right, and at the end of the day, my hands were sore. We finally spent a little more on these * made by Fiskars. They're still affordable, and three seasons in, they still work as well as they did originally.


You'll likely want to wear a good pair of gardening gloves * for some garden tasks like pruning, digging, or trimming to help keep you from developing painful blisters. However, you may want to skip them when your hands are in the dirt. Why? Because that soil is slam full of beneficial bacteria that are great for us! All those little microbes that hang out in the dirt can offer us immune protection and keep us safe from infection.


Reduced risk of arthritis, heart disease and heart attack, stroke, and infection are just some of the physical health benefits gardening has to offer. Check out this great article from The Healthy to learn more.



Mental benefits:


The benefits don't stop at our physical health. In fact, gardening offers just as many, if not more, benefits to our minds and mental health. For starters, simply being outdoors can help lower stress levels within just a few minutes. In an increasingly technological world, being in the garden is a great place to escape the screen and be one with nature.


Remember our friend vitamin D? Those of us with insufficient levels of vitamin D are at a higher risk of irritability or depression. Being out in the garden where we can get plenty of natural D helps stabilize mood.


Being around a garden, or even having visual access to one, offers such powerful benefits that studies have recommended that hospitalized or recovering patients have access to a garden or even potted plants in their room. If they can't physically be in the garden, even viewing it from a window has been shown to help. A 1984 study showed that patients with a view of a garden recovered from surgery faster, needed less pain medication, had fewer complications post-surgery and even felt happier.


I know that when our daughter was hospitalized, the hospital had a rooftop garden. It was nothing extravagant, but it offered greenery and a place to sit in the sunlight. Spending even just a few minutes in that space helped me feel recharged and ready to face the confines of that NICU room again.


Gardening may also help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and dementia. Since the causative factors and progression of Alzheimer's and dementia are still not fully understood, it isn't possible to say exactly how gardening helps prevent these things. However, an Australian study that followed 3.000 adults for more than fifteen years concluded that daily gardening resulted in a thirty-six percent decrease in their dementia risk.


With all these great mental health benefits and more, isn't giving daily gardening a shot worth your time?


 

Gardening is one of my favorite things to do. Each year I wait not so patiently for winter to come to a close so I can begin planning and planting. Planting and tending a garden, then harvesting fresh produce, is one of the most rewarding things I can do. It also goes hand in hand with another of my favorite hobbies, bird watching. When you plant a garden, birds become naturally attracted to your yard because the flowers and plants offer them food sources and safety. Bird watching offers many of the same benefits as gardening.


If you have been thinking about gardening, quit putting it off and get going! Now that you know the amazing health benefits of gardening, there's no reason to wait any longer. If you already garden, what is your favorite thing about it?


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