Gardening is often praised for its therapeutic qualities, and scientific research confirms the positive impact of this seemingly simple activity on mental health. In this article, we’ll explore the science-backed mental health benefits of gardening, from stress reduction to increased life satisfaction.
Engaging in gardening has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, the hormone responsible for stress (1). A study published in the Journal of Health Psychology compared the cortisol levels of participants who engaged in gardening or indoor reading. Results demonstrated that the gardening group experienced a more significant decrease in cortisol and reported enhanced mood compared to the reading group (2).
Mindfulness and Focus
Gardening encourages mindfulness, which requires a deep focus on the present moment. The sensory experience of touching the soil, smelling the flowers, and listening to the sounds of nature can help individuals stay grounded and present (3). In a study on horticultural therapy, participants reported a significant improvement in attention and focus after engaging in gardening tasks (4).
Increased Life Satisfaction
Nurturing plants from seed to bloom can foster a sense of accomplishment and increase life satisfaction. A survey of over 300 gardeners found that the more time they spent gardening, the higher their overall life satisfaction and psychological well-being (5).
Community gardens provide an opportunity for social interaction, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness. Researchers from the University of Minnesota discovered that community gardeners reported better mental health and social well-being than non-gardeners (6).
Nature’s Healing Power
Spending time in nature, often called “green therapy” or “ecotherapy,” has improved mental health. Simply viewing nature can decrease stress and increase positive emotions (7). Gardening allows individuals to immerse themselves in nature, reaping the mental health benefits of green spaces.
In conclusion, gardening offers a wide range of mental health benefits supported by scientific research. From stress reduction to increased life satisfaction, tending to plants is a therapeutic and nurturing activity that can significantly improve well-being.
Make sure to check out the following books on Amazon (contains affiliate links):
- “The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature” by Sue Stuart-Smith
- “Gardening Your Front Yard: Projects and Ideas for Big and Small Spaces” by Tara Nolan
- “The Healing Garden: A Practical Guide for Physical & Emotional Well-Being” by Sue Minter
- (1) Chalquist, C. (2009). A look at the ecotherapy research evidence. Ecopsychology, 1(2), 64-74.
- (2) Van den Berg, A. E., & Custers, M. H. (2011). Gardening promotes neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress. Journal of Health Psychology, 16(1), 3-11.
- (3) Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15(3), 169-182.
- (4) Gonzalez, M. T., Hartig, T., Patil, G. G., Martinsen, E. W., & Kirkevold, M. (2009). Therapeutic horticulture in clinical depression: a prospective study. Research and Theory for Nursing Practice, 23(4), 312-328.
- (5) Wang, D., & Glicksman, A. (2013). “Being grounded”: Benefits of gardening for older adults in low-income housing. Journal of Housing for the Elderly, 27(1-2), 89-104.
- (6) Teig, E., Amulya, J., Bardwell, L., Buchenau, M., Marshall, J. A