A woman relaxing in a garden
(Image credit: Hans Huber / Getty Images)

We all know the benefits of being outdoors. Fresh air, exercise and sunshine all combine to enhance our wellness. Some folks like to take a run, others hike, and still others just read a book outside on a nice day. Gardening is like any other outdoor activity. It has the ability to add to our physical health, but also to boost our mood. Our beautiful world has much to offer our senses. Enjoying what Mother Nature has to offer is one of the many ways we can take care of ourselves and live a better life.

Gardening for Mental Health

A few years back I wrote an article: How Dirt Makes You Happy. It was about the science behind the concept. Apparently there are some microbes in soil that boost our serotonin levels. This is the mental equivalent of giving your brain some vitamins and increases the feeling of happiness. It’s basically a natural antidepressant which comes from the soil. One of the things I loved about the science is that it confirmed what I already knew. Gardening is my happy place. Our days are filled with the stresses of being a grown up. Digging in the dirt takes us back to our childhood and the simple acts required give the mind time to rest and refresh.

Another benefit of gardening is our sun exposure. I know, I know. We must be careful not to overindulge because of the risk of skin cancer. But with the proper SPF, we can block the harmful rays and still get a good boost of Vitamin D. Vitamin D lowers blood pressure, can prevent some cancers, protects against arthritis, and boosts the mood. So by digging in the soil and enjoying the sunshine, there is a one-two punch of goodness for our mental health.

We are a vision-oriented species. Directing our gaze to the beauties of the landscape and nature is pleasing. Just as we enjoy art of various kinds, Mother Nature’s paintbrush is busy in the garden. The wildlife, flora, and other aspects of our garden enrich our minds and stimulate the senses. Our sense of accomplishment is uplifted by a day enjoying the vista we have created.

Gardening for Physical Health

Now that we have our brains in good shape, the other great thing about gardening is its gentle exercise. You don’t have to run a marathon to keep in shape. The acts of stretching, lifting, bending, and other actions taken when gardening are sure to build muscles and flexibility. Even people with disabilities can benefit from the simple tasks done in the garden. There are few more wholesome and gentle actions than those taken when gardening.

If you are a vegetable gardener, there are further benefits. The food we produce ends up on our table. That means we can control its exposure to pesticides and herbicides. Reducing exposure to such toxins is better for the body. The fresh picked fruits and veggies taste better than days-old produce. The nutrient levels may be higher than mass produced foods. And the joy of growing one’s own food is immeasurable. Who can’t wait for that first red, ripe tomato, or the blush of a freshly picked peach?

Gardening and health simply go hand in hand. This productive activity is far more entertaining than staring at the TV or playing a video game. Gardening for health can be as purposeful an activity as doing a yoga session or lifting weights. And best of all, you don’t have to go to a gym, saving time and money which is good for our health too.

Bonnie Grant