The Health Benefits of Gardening

It is the latter part of August, and my garden and I are still blooming.  Yet, winter is just around the corner, and I know that seasonal depression will be barking at its heels. I’ll begin the winter by trying to beat the blues with my garden planning. On both paper and my computer, I’ll design and redesign my garden.

I’ll fill my sunroom with plants and pretend that this is enough.  https://cottagegardenliving.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/how-my-sunroom-helps-me-fight-seasonal-depression/

Sunroom1

I’ll pore over my seed catalogs, and I’ll read everything that I can find about my favorite plants.

But none of this will really help.

For me, the only anecdote for the winter doldrums is spring and getting back outside and back to work in my garden.

Because of several years of hard labor, I have finally created some beautiful and meditative garden spots–places that I love to sit and look and listen to nature.

August42015adj

Yesterday, I created the following poster, and I immediately realized that it does not speak the total truth.

ZenGarden Quote

I was thinking today about how sitting in these peaceful places is a Zen-like experience.  In short, a product of my gardening effort has produced a calming place that is no doubt good for my health, but my greatest benefit is not the beautiful spots that I have created–it is the act of creating those beautiful spots–it is the doing of–the process of gardening–that benefits me most.  

The more truthful poster is the following:

ZenGarden Quote2

I began to wonder exactly what are the health benefits of gardening.  An Internet search offered some good answers:

Vitamin D

Because being in the sun increases one’s level of Vitamin D, gardening is a good, sun-friendly and Vitamin D -producting activity.

Vitamin D has multiple roles in the body, helping to:

  • Maintain the health of bones and teeth
  • Support the health of the immune system, brain and nervous system
  • Regulate insulin levels and aid diabetes management
  • Support lung function and cardiovascular health
  • Influence the expression of genes involved in cancer development.

In spite of the name, vitamin D is considered a pro-hormone and not actually a vitamin. This is because the body is capable of producing its own vitamin D through the action of sunlight on the skin, while vitamins are nutrients that cannot be synthesized by the body and must be acquired through the diet or supplements.   http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/161618.php

Health Benefits from the Actual Garden Soil

There is another reason that gardening is good for your health. There are friendly bacteria in soil that relieve stress, make  us happier and improve our immune system health.

  • Soil contains a friendly bacteria that supports our immune system. Researchers at the University of Bristol and the University College of London discovered that soil contains Mycobacterium vaccae (M. vaccae) which is a friendly bacteria that supports our immune system by activating a group of neurons in the brain that produce serotonin. Serotonin regulates our mood. People with low serotonin in their brain can become depressed. Serotonin elevates mood and decreases anxiety. The researchers injected mice with M. vaccae . The cytokine levels increased in the mice. Cytokine  causes the release of serotonin in the brain.
  •  This study proved that M vaccae may be used to treat depression. Additional studies are being conducted to explore the possibility of using M vaccae treatments for Cancer, Crohn’s Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis. http://www.healthandwellnessssa.com/how-to-relieve-stress/

Benefits of Gardening

Gardening reduces stress through exposure to nature.

  • Exposure to sunlight has been shown to increase serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is responsible for keeping our brain balanced and us feeling good. Not only does sunlight increase serotonin but it also increases melatonin, which is the chemical in our brains responsible for inducing sleep.
  • Fresh air is full of oxygen and it provides health to the cells in our bodies. Fresh air can help us feel more energized and even help us sleep better at night. Being outside in the fresh air promotes a sense of well-being and good mental focus.
  • Nature sounds like birds singing, waterfalls, bubbling brooks, rustling trees blowing in the wind all help to bring us into balance. The sounds found in nature help us to get outside of our heads and appreciate the earth and all it has to offer. These sounds help bring us into the present moment of the here and now. http://www.sound-mind.org/gardening-reduces-stress.html#.VdaVefkza00

Gardening reduces stress through mental focus & meditation

  • Through deliberate mental focus and meditating on the actions of gardening, you are taking time to set aside your problems for a while. We all know it’s healthy to take a break from our stressors and gardening provides that outlet for a lot of people.

Gardening reduces stress through personal creativity.

  • When we are creative in gardening, we reap the benefits of the end result. Depending on what you are gardening will determine your reward. For example, a vegetable garden rewards us with vegetables…a flower garden rewards us with flowers…an herb garden rewards us with herbs. Whatever you sow, you will reap. This is an exciting and rewarding stress management activity.

Stress relief

A recent study in the Netherlands suggests that gardening can fight stress even better than other relaxing leisure activities. …

Better mental health

The effortless attention of gardening may even help improve depression symptoms.

Exercise

Gardening gets you out in the fresh air and sunshine — and it also gets your blood moving.

Brain health

Some research suggests that the physical activity associated with gardening can help lower the risk of developing dementia. …

Nutrition

The food you grow yourself is the freshest food you can eat. And because home gardens are filled with fruits and vegetables, it’s also among the healthiest food you can eat.

Not surprisingly, several studies have shown that gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables than their peers. … http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/07/08/why.gardening.good/

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