Gardening is a pleasurable pastime for many. If you have not picked up the shovel in years, or want to start enjoying the great outdoors more, give gardening a try. There are also a host of health benefits associated with playing in the dirt.
Boosts brain health. The process of gardening involves numerous brain functions, including learning new skills, problem-solving and sensory awareness. Research has shown that when these critical functions are engaged the risk of dementia may be reduced by as much as 36%. Gardening can also improve our attention span. Being surrounded by the colors, textures, smells and sounds in a garden stimulates our involuntary attention, which allows the mind to wander and clear itself. Using “involuntary” attention reserves the mind’s energy and helps us pay “voluntary” attention when we need to concentrate.
Relieves stress and anxiety. When a person is stressed, the adrenal glands release the steroid hormone cortisol. A study in the Journal of Health Psychology states that gardening can lower cortisol levels in the brain. Also, researchers from Bristol University and University College London discovered that “friendly” bacteria commonly found in soil activated brain cells to produce serotonin in mice. The release of serotonin in the brain works as a natural anti-depressant.
Good form of exercise. Gardening is considered a moderately intense exercise and can increase mobility and strength. It’s been proven that even light exercise can help slow down the aging process. Being outside in a sunny garden also boosts your vitamin D levels, which has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Just don’t forget to drink water and wear sunscreen when working outside.
Forget about aches and pains. Research shows that spending time in nature can reduce how much people perceive pain. The sensory stimulation happening while tending a garden can actually keep us from noticing unpleasant feelings, both emotional and physical. Studies have also shown that patients recovering from surgery not only need less medicinal pain relief but also recover much faster when given access to nature.
Make new friends. Get together with others and start a community garden club. Members can go to a different member’s garden each week or take “field trips” to public gardens. Socialization can boost mood and lower the risk of depression, chronic stress and inactivity.