If you’re looking for a hobby that will get you active outside and provide you with a beautiful and healthy environment, look no further than gardening.
Many people who live in the city or didn’t grow up around nature think of gardening as a chore, rather than a hobby. They get depressed over their ability to keep house plants alive and insist that they’re doomed to their black thumbs.
If you’re willing to learn some new gardening skills, you’d be surprised how many health benefits it can bring to your life.
Here are some ways gardening can boost your mental and physical health.
1. It reduces stress
Multiple studies have confirmed that just 30 minutes of gardening can visibly lower our levels of cortisol, our body’s primary stress hormone. The more cortisol that’s present in our bodies, the more exaggerated our stress response will be.
In these studies, patients had to do a stressful task, then either garden or read for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, the people who gardened were much more relaxed, and their positive mood was fully restored.
2. It boosts heart health
Whether you’re digging a hole, wheeling a barrow full of soil, or doing some vigorous weeding, you’d be surprised how out many calories you can burn when you’re out in the garden. Depending on the activities you’re doing, it may also offer as much cardio exercise as going to the gym.
In one large study done on seniors, people who were physically active around their house or in the garden had a much greater level of heart health than those who led a more sedentary life.
3. It increases your vitamin D exposure
It sucks to be responsible for weeding or clearing brush in your garden when the weather is lousy. That’s why most people save their garden projects for bright, sunny days.
Spending time in the sun boosts our levels of vitamin D, which contributes to proper bone structure and helps in our absorption of other key vitamins and minerals. Spending just six days in the sun can help make up for over six weeks without sunlight.
4. It lowers our risk for dementia
It seems too good to be true, but gardening has been shown to lower our risks for dementia by 36 percent. In one study, it was actually more effective than removing alcohol from the diet, which helped to lower participant’s dementia risk by only 34 percent.
Gardening is a great preventative measure against dementia because it ensures that people will be active on a regular basis, not just sporadically.
5. It helps encourage socialization
Even if you only garden in your own yard, you’ll still be forced to socialize during outings to the garden center or nursery.
If you garden in an allotment plot or in a community garden, the opportunities for socializing are even greater. Taking advantage of these community gardening opportunities is great for people who are post-retirement or into their senior years.
Socializing on a regular basis improves quality of life and helps to exercise our cognitive skills.
6. It makes you more likely to eat vegetables
Research has shown that people who garden on a regular basis are more likely to consume the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables per day. The pride that you have after growing them directly translates to greater enjoyment of the product itself, which makes you more willing to seek out these types of foods even if you didn’t grow them.
For picky eaters, being able to see the fruit and veggies grown from plants may offer a measure of control that they wouldn’t otherwise have if they had just bought the food from the grocery store.
7. It helps you lose weight
In addition to consuming more vegetables and fruit, people who garden are less likely to be overweight than their non-gardening counterparts. People who were trying to lose weight while gardening dropped more pounds than those who engaged in different weight-loss strategies.
In addition to being heart-healthy, gardening is surprisingly physical. So, it’s no surprise that people who gardened on a regular basis also lost weight.
8. It makes a difference in the fight against climate change
The threat of climate change has never been greater and the outcome more terrifying. So many people feel helpless, but did you know that your garden can actually make a positive impact on the fight against climate change?
Planting trees, reusing kitchen waste, and growing your own food are all positive steps you can take to fight climate change in your own backyard.
9. It boosts happiness
There have been tons of studies done on the impact nature has on our happiness. In Japan, shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing”, is an umbrella term for the many health benefits that come from spending time in nature. Whether you feel an improvement in your mental health after spending time in nature or feel a mood boost from smelling flowers or seeing a beautiful garden in bloom, there are lots of ways that our garden can make us happy.
How To Start a Garden: 5 Tips for Beginners
Now that you’ve seen the fantastic health benefits that you can get from gardening, it’s time to try it for yourself. You don’t have to start with a huge plot of land.
These tips will help you start, regardless of whether you’re working with a whole backyard or just a few pots.
1. Start small
When you first start gardening, start small.
If you don’t have the outdoor space for a garden plot, you can purchase a garden box and suspend it from a balcony or collect a series of pretty pots to plant in. If you start with a few plants that you know you’ll use, you’ll be able to give them more of your attention as you learn.
You can always expand your plot next year.
2. Don’t use just any soil
One of the biggest mistakes that newbie gardeners make is only using the soil available to them or purchasing a cheap bag of all-purpose soil.
Soil is where your plants get their nutrients. If you don’t have good soil, your plants won’t thrive. You can’t go wrong with purchasing a specific soil blend, either. You can find vegetable soil, lawn soil, or triple mix, which is a great all-around option.
3. Pay attention to sun requirements
Before you go out to buy plants, evaluate your potential garden plot and track how much sun it gets. If you spend a day making a sun map, it will be a lot easier to know where each plant should go.
When in doubt, ask an expert at the garden center. They’ll help you read the plant tags, so you know which plants thrive in the sun and which are best in shade.
4. Start with easier plants
Some plants are just fussy to grow. Cut yourself some slack and start with plants that are known to be hardier and easy to grow.
Pansies and sunflowers are both great flowers for first-timers. For vegetables, start with tomatoes, and supplement with some hardy herbs like mint and basil.
5. Water just the right amount
If you’re new to gardening, you probably didn’t know that you should avoid watering the leaves of your plant. Stick to soaking the soil around each plant and make watering a regular practice.
If you see yellow or molding leaves, it means you’re watering too much.
Start Gardening Today
If you’re looking for a stress-relieving hobby, gardening is a great choice. It gets you outside and forces you to engage in your environment and community in a fun and meaningful way. Plus, you’ll beautify your surroundings, and keep yourself in fresh fruits and veggies all summer long.