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How Gardening Relieves Stress and Helps You Unwind

Updated: Jan 3


Gardening tools in a window. Gardening for stress relief.

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If you’ve ever experienced the pleasure of picking home-grown vegetables or creating a bouquet of flowers from your yard, you may already know how much joy comes from harvesting something you grew.


But science has discovered that gardening provides benefits greater than just food on the table and pretty flowers. Gardening relieves stress.


Gardening can reduce cortisol levels, help you live longer, and reduce the risk of dementia.


If those aren’t enough reasons to get your hands dirty, here are eight ways gardening is good for your health.


Physical exercise

Gardening is a type of physical exercise. Pulling weeds, turning soil, and pushing a wheelbarrow all burn calories. In fact, gardening has been shown to burn up to 300 calories in less than an hour!


Sunshine and vitamin D

We all need a little vitamin D, but most of us spend so much time indoors that we don’t receive enough sunlight for our bodies to produce the vitamin D we need. Spending time in the garden can provide us with the sun exposure our skin requires to metabolize vitamin D.


On top of that, sunshine helps strengthen our bones (so does exercise!) and triggers our brains to produce serotonin—a natural antidepressant.


Mental health

Because the sunlight exposure we get while gardening helps our brains produce serotonin, it can help alleviate depression. Sunlight is often recommended in cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).


Gardening also provides a healthy outlet for built-up tension, worries, and stress. Using gardening as a stress relief tool can improve your mood and give you quiet moments to relax as you watch your plants grow.


Soil microbes

You might not enjoy the thought of billions of tiny microbes hiding in the garden soil you’re putting your hands into, but these soil microbes can benefit your health and boost your immune system.


Master gardeners know that soil health directly affects garden health. And healthy soil is teeming with friendly bacteria (like Mycobacterium vaccae) that act as a helper to plants and people alike.


Sense of accomplishment

There’s something wonderful about knowing you can provide for yourself. Being able to put food on the table isn’t just something our grandparents used to do, and you don’t have to be a farmer to supplement your pantry.


An herb garden can be grown outside or on a kitchen windowsill and adds freshness and flavor to your meals.


A flower garden adds beauty to your yard—talk about curb appeal!—and brightness to the bouquets you display in your home.


Creativity

If you think gardening is strictly about planting vegetables in rows, think again! Gardens are a creative outlet where you can express yourself through the vibrancy of life and color.


Try planting a fairy garden, complete with fairy houses, tiny fairy furniture, and mushrooms.


How about a salsa garden that includes all the ingredients you need to make your special summertime hot sauce?


You can also find new ways to upscale old items in the garden. Plant a rainboot filled with succulents, or purposefully tip a broken wheelbarrow on its side and arrange colorful blooming plants in a way that looks like they’ve spilled out alongside your garden path.


Garden watering cans on a shelf. Gardening for stress relief.

Mindfulness

Gardening is a tactile experience. When we immerse ourselves in an activity that includes multiple senses—holding gardening tools, smelling the damp soil, seeing the colors of freshly planted flowers—it becomes easier to let go of past and future worries and live in the moment.


Add beauty to your space

Whether you have a large garden in the backyard or a variety of houseplants artfully arranged along an indoor windowsill, plants add beauty and interest to our living spaces. A small windowsill garden can brighten up a room without breaking the bank. And an apartment balcony is the perfect spot for a fun container garden.


One more thing ...

Studies show that viewing gardens (as well as working in them) helps us to relax. Gardeners of all ages and abilities have testified to the physical and mental health benefits of gardening for stress relief.


Need a gift idea for your favorite gardener (or want to encourage someone to get started with their garden)? You might enjoy this gifts for gardeners post, too!


Not ready to start a garden of your own? You can still benefit from being around plants. Visit a garden center and admire the beautiful colors and plants that are available for sale. You might just gather enough inspiration to start planning your ideal future gardening experience.


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