Gardening is good for the mind and body
By Susan Kozak For The News-Herald
Summer is here.
The season most of us yearn for is upon us, filled with sunshine and light. Yet, even with the sunshine, bevy of outdoor activities and the warm feelings of what seems like endless days, our life stresses don’t stop.
Our bills still need to be paid. Our bosses continue to want results at work. Our relationships with our loved ones – be they spouses, children, extended family or friends – need tending.
It’s very easy to feel emotionally overwhelmed and, in some circumstances, experience depressive symptoms. How do we carve out the space we need in order to relax our bodies and minds, to let go so we can re-energize and help ourselves and others?
Gardening helps us connect with nature and experience the benefits of fresh air, sunshine and the natural beauty of summer as well as positively impact our feeling of wellbeing.
Gardening also brings out the instinctive nurturer within us. Feeling the dirt in our hands and getting sweaty as we plant our flowers, vegetables or plants decreases our cortisol (often referred to as the stress hormone) levels which lifts our spirits and mood.
With the rise of community gardening in recent years, we now have an opportunity to engage in social connectedness – a vital prong in our overall wellbeing. Community gardening has been shown to help us break out of our isolation by forming bonds with others.
Additionally, increased time spent in nature has proven health benefits, while hours spent in front of the TV, computer or phone are actually found to be associated with depression.
And, with a refreshed perspective that gardening helps bring on, we are better able to cope with life’s peaks and valleys. We can also gain a sense of achievement and a self-esteem boost when we see our infant plants and vegetables grow into maturity during the 90 days of summer.
Gardening is even being used as a form of therapy in group homes, prisons and retirement communities because of the positive effects it’s show to have on mental health issues such as reducing depression and anxiety.
The benefits of gardening go beyond our emotional health. Studies from universities to health associations show that the repetitive actions of gardening help us physically, whether by strengthening our hands or exercising specific groups of muscles as well as boosting the immune system.
Not all of us can run 5k’s or train for triathlons. Gardening, however, is a great physical equalizer for people of any age or physical condition and has even been shown to lower the risk of developing dementia.
So, as we begin to bask in the sunshine, light and activities of summer, consider the relaxing and rewarding cadence of gardening as a way to help you revitalize emotionally and physically from the challenges of daily living.
Its benefits are well documented, and you may find out you have a green thumb to boot!
Finding a local community garden
Many municipalities have community gardens where individuals or groups can get a plot for the summer. They are usually reserved on a first come, first served basis. Contact your local community for more information.
Susan Kozak has been a licensed social worker for the past 31 years and currently serves as the executive director of Community Care Services, a position she has held since 2011.