Garden Therapy

Garden Therapy

Christine Nikel

26 June 2019

We might think we are nurturing our garden,

but of course it’s our garden that is really nurturing us”  

 – Jenny Uglow-

This is very true…

While caring for, protecting, feeding and cherishing our gardens, studies have found that we benefit from all that giving in so many ways.

The Benefits of Gardening

The most obvious gain from tending the garden would be on a physical level.

In digging, bending, lifting, picking up, planting, pruning and mowing we use a wide range of muscles and burn a lot of energy.

Gardening is a perfect form of exercise – it’s out in the sunshine and fresh air, you can do it any time of the day for as long as you allow yourself to, you don’t need the latest fancy outfit (but then again you can dress up or not at all if you want!) and age and gender plays no role.

If you’re a calorie counter, you can burn more than 400 calories per hour, depending on your activity – digging will burn up 200 calories per half hour, planting a tree 180 calories and the simple act of watering the garden will buy you a well-deserved cappuccino! So not only will you build a strong, healthy body but you will lose weight while growing a beautiful garden.

Gardening has been found to lower blood pressure and increase cardiac health which reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

By working outside you expose your skin (always with protection of course) to the sun, our main and best source of vitamin D, which is vital for strong bone formation.

The fresh smell of recently dug garden soil can boost your immune system. Soil contains beneficial bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae which we absorb through inhalation. It has been found to help with respiratory issues like asthma and allergies.

Digging and planting activities build the muscles of the hands and improve hand strength and dexterity – this might seem trivial, but it does become important as we age.

Using complex muscles and hand-eye coordination as well as the planning and forward thinking involved in planting and laying out a garden is stimulating and boosts our brain health.  

A Deeper Healing

The more subtle benefits of gardening reveal themselves in the effect they have on our mind and soul.

The smell of fresh soil, the feeling of the warm sun on our skins and the effort and exercise of gardening can reduce the level of cortisol – the dreaded stress hormone – and increase the secretion of serotonin – the feel good hormone. This not only boosts our immune system, but we feel happier and more content.

Gardening has also been found to have a positive effect on depression and insomnia.

Nurturing Growth

Planting a seed or plant, caring for it and tending to its every need creates a feeling of nurturing and responsibility and seeing it grow and thrive or ultimately picking its blooms or fruits boosts the self-esteem and instills a feeling of pride and accomplishment.

The sight of a familiar flower or the smell of a shrub as you brush against it, can trigger fond memories of a family member or friend or a long forgotten good experience – that warm fuzzy feeling all over again!

Family Time

Speaking of family, gardening together as a family can be an incredibly bonding and elevating experience. All members of the family across all ages can participate and spend time together in and with nature to create a space to play and visit in.  

Gardening keeps us focused and in the moment – this helps to bring our scattered thoughts back in line and for a while we forget the busyness and demands of the world outside. Tasks like pruning and weeding, similar to packing and clearing cupboards, can be very liberating as we remove the old to make way for new and fresh growth.

We have to exercise patience when gardening since nature’s pace is set and it can’t be rushed and the rewards of our hard work are great, but not instant. This is priceless in a world of instant gratification!

So many great reasons to go gardening – garden on your plot or in your little townhouse haven, on your balcony or the windowsill of your pad, garden wherever you can place a pot or create a bed to dig your hands in and lose yourself a little.

Let nature inspire you and discover your wild with gardening…

A word of caution: Gardening can be extremely addictive, but it won’t harm your health!