So, I was getting my weekly fix of “Orange is the New Black” and I got some interesting information: Gardening is good for your mental health! I thought to myself, “see you can learn something from drama tv…lol!”, but I will save that discussion for another post. I know you may be thinking, “ok, what is the connection between gardening and mental health, and why should I use my valuable time to keep reading?”
Well, I just recently started a garden at the local community center and I am so in love with it! I never thought I would actually love getting my hands dirty, but it is one of the best feelings in the world to have your hands immersed in soil and compost and to actually to see the fruits of your labor. I was inspired to start the garden as part of my healing journey –I want to know EVERYTHING I am putting on and in my body! So what better way to know then to grow your own food and herbs. Starting a garden has been on my bucket list for years. So, when I found out that the community center was starting a community garden I was all on board!
Just to give you a little history about my mental health: I suffer from depression, anxiety and emotional trauma. I had a wonderful childhood, horrible adolescence and been spending most of my twenties figuring out this enigma called my life. I have been dealing with the pain that I repressed during my adolescence all through my twenties. I believe my depression really started to manifest when I was in college, but it became a problem when I was pregnant with my first son. In high school, I started writing poetry to release my pain; In college, I made myself really really really busy to avoid my life woes; when I was pregnant with my son I had no choice but to deal with my raging emotions. I do not believe in taking prescriptions for something I know I can heal holistically and naturally, so I have been learning so much about the organic way. Who would have known that my interest in gardening would turn into a cure for my depression? Reflecting on how I feel when I’m gardening, I do feel more relaxed and have a greater sense of purpose. I was so ecstatic when my first seedlings peeked their way through the soil. Now, everyday I look forward to spending at least an hour in the garden.
Studies actually show that gardening can improve your mental and physical health! Here are a few of those findings:
- Mycobacterium Vaccae, which is a harmless bacteria commonly found in soil, has shown to increase the release and metabolism of serotonin in parts of the brain that control cognitive function and mood — much like serotonin-boosting antidepressant drugs do (CNN).
- Being in natural places fosters recovery from mental fatigue, improves outlook and life satisfaction, helps us to cope with and recover from stress, improves our ability to recover from illness and injury, restores concentration, and improves productivity (Gardening Matters).
- Simply viewing plants has been shown to reduce fear, anger, blood pressure, and muscle tension (Gardening Matters).
- Gardens require physical exertion, provide relief from stress and engender creativity, participation with nature and a sense of stewardship for the land. Individuals reap direct benefits from the physical activity involved in gardening and having access to fresh, cheap produce on a daily basis (Designing Healthy Communities).
- Psychologically there is satisfaction that comes from the joy of a successful harvest (Designing Healthy Communities).
- Gardeners report decreased stress as well as “the feeling of a spiritual connection with ‘Mother Earth’ ” (Designing Healthy Communities).
The presence of community gardens also have a positive impact on the community:
- SOCIAL CAPITAL: In addition to the physical and psychological health benefits outlined above, the community gardens are seen as a social, caring place contributing to a greater sense of belonging and a catalyst for friendship formation (Designing Health Communities).
- ECONOMY: Gardening can help the local food markets, which may become a necessity due to the escalating fuel costs and the need for greater nutrition. Get into your backyard and develop a greater consciousness of the world in which we live (How stuff works).
- CRIME PREVENTION: Scientific studies show that crime decreases in neighborhoods as the amount of green space increases, and that vegetation has been seen to alleviate mental fatigue, one of the precursors to violent behavior (Gardening Matters).
- ENVIRONMENTAL: Environmental benefits of community gardens include increasing pervious surfaces and allowing for groundwater recharge, improving air quality through the addition of plants to the landscape, beautifying the environment and promoting sustainability (Together for Health).
So, what are you waiting for, go start your garden (or whatever you been wanting to start and putting it off). You can even start small with just one house plant and watch your garden grow!
Designing Health Communities: http://designinghealthycommunities.org/role-community-gardens-sustaining-healthy-communities/
Together 4 Health: http://www.together4health.ca/workgroups/benefits-community-gardens
Health Benefits of Urban Agriculture:: http://www.co.fresno.ca.us/uploadedFiles/Departments/Behavioral_Health/MHSA/Health%20Benefits%20of%20Urban%20Agriculture%20(1-8).pdf