5 Health Benefits of Gardening
Here we are in late August, and for many folks that means harvest time is in full swing for their home gardens! Gorgeous fruits, veggies, aromatic herbs, and blossoms cover neighborhood yards like an edible rainbow.
Despite the allure of having access to healthy, cheap produce within feet of your door, some folks are still hesitant or disinterested in gardening because... well... it's hard work. Green thumbs don't happen overnight, and getting into a gardening groove can take many seasons. I'm personally on my 3rd or 4th year attempting to seriously garden, and I've made (am still making) plenty of mistakes. But you know what? All of that time and energy invested, even if you manage to kill all of your plants the first year will be worth it... I promise if you just get your hands into that soil you will be hooked. You will have caught the gardening bug (possibly in the literal sense but more on this later)!
As a proponent of natural healthcare as well as being a caring human being, I am writing today to implore of you... Put on your wide brimmed hat, grab those gloves and shovel... and get to digging ASAP! In addition to healthy dietary habits, gardening is one of the best things you can do for your health!
Here are some ways gardening is beneficial to health:
1. Physical Activity - Digging, weeding, and pruning trees are all good exercise. The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a 2.5 hour weekly goal for gardening stating that it can lower blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety, and lower the risks of obesity, osteoporosis, stroke, colon cancer, and heart disease. People recovering from physical illness can retrain their muscles, improve coordination, and regain strength with gardening activities. Being outside can also give you a dose of some much needed vitamin D!
2. High Quality Nutritious Produce - Grocery store produce usually travels long distances to get from farm to shelf, losing nutritional value along the way. Conventional growing methods often use petroleum based fertilizers and pesticides, which are linked to many diseases in humans, animals, and crucial pollinator insects like bees. Often the soil is nutrient poor and exhausted from unsustainable monoculture farming. Organic produce still faces the issues of long transportation time are still tend to be nutritionally inferior to home grown fruits and veggies... and they're expensive! Growing your own produce organically, even in pots on your fire escape, can provide you with high quality, fresh, and nutrient-packed food!
3. Mental Health - Simply spending time in nature reduces stress, and breathing fresh air improves concentration. Horticultural therapy programs have proven to be enormously beneficial to people suffering from mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. As medical research is able to further validate these therapeutic effects, programs will continue to grow in children's hospitals, prisions, veteran's homes, and more. What I find particularly fascinating is that there is a strain of bacterium in soil called m. vaccae that triggers the release of serotonin in our brains, which elevates mood and decreases anxiety. It's a natural antidepressant! This bacteria has been found to improve cognitive function, and possibly treat cancer! More on this study here.
4. Natural Medicine - Healthcare is this country is in a sorry state of affairs with little emphasis on preventative medicine, and an alarming abuse of synthetic prescription medications. Focusing on proper diet and exercise should be the foundation of good health; but what if every American citizen knew that growing just a handful of herbs could provide their family with free natural healthcare? Surely we'd all be growing our own medicine cabinets!
5. Good For The Soul - Being in communion with nature is a key element to my own spiritual path, and the paths of countless others going back through ancient times. Surrounding ourselves with Earth's beauty fills us with peace, serenity, and feelings of connectedness and grounding. Observing the cyclical patterns of nature can also help us understand and cope with loss and gain. Nature stewardship is deeply satisfying for most people. Creating biodiverse gardens not only beautifies our world, but also creates habitats for other creatures to thrive.
Is that motivation enough for you? The trick is to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the excessive amount of information out there. Yes, do a little research, but I recommend starting small. Try potting a few low maintenance herbs like rosemary or thyme.
Even though my thumb gets greener each year, I'm still a fan of a low-fuss so I garden mostly with perennials. It's the same amount of work initially, but after the plants are established all you need to do is pull some weeds every now and then, add a nutrient boost, and do some pruning. If you have a yard, it's not too late to get crops in the ground this year- now is the time to plant for fall harvest!
Green blessings and happy gardening to you all!