5. Mental health benefits also come along with gardening
Now, let’s get back to the health benefits of gardening. There are many considerable benefits of gardening beyond exercise. For instance, gardening can also help relieve depression. Depression is often rooted in the feeling of being disconnected from nature, and hence disconnected from inner you. Researchers have also found that digging in the soil may affect your mental health via the microorganisms in the soil—again confirming the link between your personal health and the health of your soil!
In a study conducted in Norway, people who had been diagnosed with depression, persistent low mood, or ‘bipolar II disorder’ spent 6 hours a week growing flowers and vegetables. After 3 months, half of the participants had experienced a measurable improvement in their depression symptoms. What’s more, their mood continued to be better 3 months after the gardening program was over.
Christopher Lowry, Ph.D., has been injecting mice with Mycobacterium vaccae, a harmless bacteria commonly found in soil, and has found that they increase the release and metabolism of serotonin in parts of the brain that control cognitive function and mood — much like serotonin-boosting antidepressant drugs do.
A survey by Gardeners’ World magazine, reported 80% of gardeners being happy and content with their lives, compared with 67% of anti-gardeners. This feeling of wellbeing can have other more far-reaching implications for your physical health as well. According to a recent research done by Johns Hopkins, having a cheerful temperament can significantly reduce your odds of suffering a heart attack or sudden cardiac death, for that matter.
The TV presenter and garden writer, Monty Don, attributes the wellbeing of gardeners to the “recharging” you get from sticking your hands in the soil and spending time outdoors. This seems more than reasonable when you consider the health benefits associated with grounding, also known as earthing. As detailed in the documentary film Grounded, the surface of the earth holds subtle health-boosting energy, and all you have to do is touch it.
Walking shoeless on the earth transfers free electrons from the earth’s surface into your body that spread throughout your tissues. Grounding has been shown to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, improve sleep, and enhance your well-being. Many gardeners will confirm the sense of wellbeing obtained from sticking your hands in the dirt as well, and this is a separate additional pleasure that comes from eating your own home-grown food!
6. Gardening offers stress relief and boosts brain health
Netherlands researchers have found that gardening is one of the most potent stress relieving activities out there. In their trial, two groups of people were asked to complete a stressful task. One group was then instructed to garden for half an hour while the other one was asked to read indoors for the same length of time.
Later, the gardening group reported a greater improvement in their mood and temper. Tests also revealed they had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, compared to those who tried to relax by quiet reading.
CNN’s report also refers to research showing that gardening may even help reduce your risk of dementia: “Two separate studies that followed people in their 60s and 70s for up to 16 years found, respectively, that those who gardened regularly had a 36 percent and 47 percent lower risk of dementia than non-gardeners, even when a range of other health factors were taken into account. These findings are hardly definitive, but they suggest that the combination of physical and mental activity involved in gardening may have a positive influence on the mind.”
7. Gardening is a superb way to improve your sustenance
Keeping a garden can also improve your health by providing you with fresher, uncontaminated, nutrient-dense food that you can’t buy in your local grocery store or even green market. It will also help you reduce your grocery bill. Urban gardening is an important step toward building a more sustainable food system as well.
In fact, we’ve been encouraging everyone to plant a “Victory Garden” as a proactive step toward fixing our broken food system and improving our natural diet. They are named Victory Gardens because during World Wars I and II, 40% of the produce grown in the U.S. came from people’s backyards. I believe it is possible to spur a similar movement today, only for a different purpose. The new reality is that for most people it is very difficult to obtain high quality nutrient-dense foods unless they grow them themrselves.
Just start small, and before you know it, large portions of your meals could come straight from your own edible landscape. We recommend getting your feet wet by growing sprouts, as they are among the most nutritious foods you could possibly grow around your households.
Seeds, when sprouted, can contain up to 30 times the nutrients of organic vegetables! Sprouts also allow your body to extract more of the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fats from the other foods you eat. Add to that the boon of requiring very little space, and the ability to grow them indoors, year around. So, SPROUT IT!
You can use sprouts in a myriad of salads, either in addition to or in lieu of salad greens, or add them to vegetable juice or smoothies. We started out growing sprouts in Ball jars long ago, but we’ve found that growing them in potting soil is a far better option. You can harvest them in about a week, and in a 10×10 tray, you can harvest from 1-2 pounds (1 kg) of sunflower sprouts.
That will last you about 3 days. Or you can store them in the fridge for 7 days. Sunflower spouts will give you the most volume for your work and, in our opinion, have a taste to enjoy!
To sum up: Gardening may be the key facet of a healthy lifestyle
The groceries grown in a garden of your own are overall fresher, more nutritious, and taste better than store bought food, and, most important, you can’t beat the price!
Urban gardens are also the key to saving energy, protecting water quality and topsoil, and promoting biodiversity and beautifying densely populated communities. Gardening may also hold the key to improved mental health, stress relief, and much-needed exercise in a world where most of us spend our days sitting in front of computers in artificially-lit accommodations.
We personally obtain the majority of our food supplies from our own edible landscape now, which includes multiple varieties of kale, red peppers, hot peppers, onions, garlic, parsley, rosemary, cilantro, oregano, one olive and three avocado trees, and plenty of fruit, including 130 strawberry plants, mulberries, blueberries, service berries, cherries, lime, oranges, tangerines and mangos.
It really is one of life’s great pleasures to be able to walk out the door of your home and pick fresh high-quality food. Take our word for this, it is worth the while!