Your Garden and Wellness: How Nature Helps Us Recover Our Mental Health

In our article called the ‘Importance of Green Plants in Our Life: Protecting our Land and Health’, we touched on how plants play a key role in daily human life. Beyond providing us with food, plants are also responsible for producing oxygen, cleaning the air we breathe and serving as key ingredients in many herbal remedies or medicines. Moreover, creating a space for plants in your life comes with mental and emotional benefits such as reduced stress levels, increased productivity, and an improved outlook on life.

At the height of the pandemic lockdowns, many people around the world experienced the wellness that comes from growing plants. A feature from Reuters notes how fruit and vegetable seed sales jumped worldwide as families tried to ease their concerns about food security. Aside from supplementing dishes on the dinner table, furloughed workers and people in work-from-home setups similarly found gardening to be a good way to occupy their free time. Best of all, gardening helped people connect with one another as a community; in many areas around the world, citizens pooled together resources, collective knowledge, and best practices on gardening. Indeed, keeping a garden (or at least a few house plants) is one of the rare positive trends to have emerged from the pandemic. Today, we’ll take a closer look at exactly how gardening, plants, and nature can restore our mental health.

Nature Satisfies Our Physical Needs

Original research published by Frontiers in Public Health found that home gardening served as a form of “ecological medicine” during pandemic lockdowns. Close contact with nature offered opportunities to exercise the senses, such as touch, smell, sight, and sound. Nature also helped divert negative emotions and release pressure from mental ills. But how exactly does this work? Interacting with green spaces encourages physical activity. Rather than being stuck in a sedentary position with technology the whole day, many plant-lovers bend, squat, and stretch to properly care for their plants. This physical toil gives the body an endorphin boost to keep it happy; receiving plenty of sunshine and vitamin D outdoors also synthesizes another happiness hormone called serotonin. Eating our own crops also leads to a fresh and healthier diet, with increased satisfaction over being able to feed oneself.

Gardening Helps Us Practice Acceptance

Often, people suffer because we try to control things we have no power over and end up getting frustrated over personal limitations or the unpredictability of life. Gardening, essentially, forces us to surrender to Mother Nature. As psychotherapist Sue Stuart-Smith describes in her book The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature, gardening allows us to get our hands in the earth and connect with nature’s cycle of life, which includes destruction and decay. We are reminded that there are many things beyond our control. And even if we bring our best efforts, other factors like bugs, rodents, or inclement weather can lead to less-than-perfect results — and that’s perfectly okay. Gardening grounds us and refocuses us towards a “growth” mindset, where we appreciate mistakes as opportunities to learn, rather than personal failings. This wisdom gleaned from gardening keeps us mentally healthy

Plants Offer Us Comfort

Writer Karen Hugg, author of Leaf Your Troubles Behind: How to Destress and Grow Happiness through Plants, talks about how nature was humanity’s first home. Now that we’ve wandered away from it, however, we’ve become stressed and depressed. Plants can offer us exactly what we need at times: silence, purity, and honesty in their response to our care. Plants keep us connected with the world around us, be it the ground, the seasons, or wildlife. This is why we enter a flow-state when we’re gardening. We become more attuned to what we’re doing and are mindful of the moment, even if we’re just weeding or watering plants. Gardening is an act that aligns us with nature, providing us with a sense of calmness that is ideal for our mental health.

Written exclusively for

by Alicia Candleman

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