Guest Post by Maria Cannon, from Dallas, Texas, who believes we’re never too young to dedicate ourselves to a hobby. Her hobbies–like gardening–played a major role in maintaining her physical and mental health.

Gardening is a great way to spend time outdoors, get more fresh food into your diet, and transform your yard into something beautiful. But there’s one big benefit of starting a backyard garden that doesn’t get as much attention: It’s great for your mental health. Don’t believe us? Here are seven incredible things a garden can do for your mental wellbeing.

1. It Relieves Stress

A 2010 study found that 30 minutes of gardening reduced levels of the hormone cortisol, too much of which is linked to chronic stress, poor memory function, and weakened immune systems, among other health problems. Gardening outside not only had a greater effect on participants’ cortisol levels than 30 minutes of leisure reading, but the effects lasted long after leaving the garden.

2. It Eases Mental Fatigue

When your to-do list has you feeling mentally exhausted, a stroll through the garden might be the remedy you need. Time in nature has been shown to ease the mental fatigue that leaves you irritable, inattentive, and forgetful. A few minutes spent weeding or cutting flower blooms lightens the demand on your mind — a welcome break from busy work and home environments where you must tend to several things at once. After a period of quiet contemplation, you’ll enjoy a less stressed, more focused mind.

3. It Combats Depression and Anxiety

There’s a reason horticultural therapy is quickly gaining popularity. Gardening is becoming respected as an effective way to combat mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Time spent outdoors is linked to better emotional regulation and less ruminating, or dwelling on negative thoughts and feelings.Gardening also helps you meet the weekly recommended amount of moderate physical activity, another important tool in managing mood disorders.

4. It Helps Attention Deficits

Just 20 minutes spent in nature can improve concentration in children with ADHD, according to research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In fact, a short nature work improved children’s performance on concentration tests as well as or better than ADHD medication. And the concentration benefits of nature aren’t limited to children with ADHD: Adults with ADHD see improvements in concentration and impulse control after time outdoors, too.

5. It Strengthens Memory

That 20 minutes of nature can improve your short-term memory, too. Researchers at the University of Michigan found people perform 20 percent better on memory tests after spending time in natural setting over an urban one. This science has been applied to memory care facilities serving patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, where you can often find memory gardens designed to benefit sufferers’ memory function, cognitive ability, and stress levels.

6. It Improves Self-Esteem

Gardening can also improve your self-esteem — an important benefit for people with depression struggling to love themselves. Just one session in the garden has been shown to measurably improve self-esteem, with participants reporting less tension and better self-perception after tending to a garden.

7. It Makes You Feel Alive

At this point, it may sound like gardening is a miracle drug. And it just might be: One of the most stunning findings about gardening and mental health is that gardening increases vitality. People report feeling more energized, inspired, and motivated after spending time in nature, but those same benefits were lacking for activities that don’t involve green space.

 With all these amazing benefits, there’s no reason not to make gardening part of your life. After all, what’s more important than protecting your mental health? For people currently experiencing mental illness, gardening can lessen symptoms and serve as a healthy coping strategy. Not only can it help sufferers fight their illness, but it serves as a positive, productive alternative to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drug or alcohol abuse. For people without a history of mental illness, gardening is a wonderful way to preserve and improve your mental well-being for the long-term. And who doesn’t want that?

Top image via Unsplash

Author: Maria (HobbyJr.org)

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