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Friday, June 15, 2018 - 11:41am

How does gardening make you happier?

Does gardening leave you feeling happy and relaxed? Do you sometimes have an urge to grab a fist full of soil? Does watering plants give you great, unexplainable joy? Your brain might be telling you something! Gardening is actually an effective way of improving your physical and psychological wellbeing. With all the digging, lifting, pruning, weeding, watering, harvesting, planting, raking, transplanting, and moving, it’s clear how gardening can have many physical benefits. But research shows that these benefits can also extend to our minds as well!

In Japan, there’s a growing trend called “forest bathing” where people immerse themselves in the outdoors as a way to refresh, unwind, and boost concentration. Why has this caught on? Because it’s effective! Studies have shown that forest bathing forces people to disconnect from distractions and be more mindful of their immediate surroundings. This can also happen while gardening. If you’ve ever weeded a garden bed, you’ll know that it requires a high degree of focus in order to identify unwanted plants. By noticing the smallest details, you’re also improving your concentration.

Another important aspect of gardening is getting your hands dirty and research shows that this can improve your mental wellbeing. Scientists have discovered that the mycobacterium found in soil can improve brain functions while boosting moods. The mycobacterium vaccae found in the soil increases serotonin produced in the brain (also known as the “happy” chemical). By getting your hands dirty, you’re also making your brain happy! Mycobacterium has also been linked to infection and disease, so use in moderation. 

There's also the sentimental attachment to your garden. Gardening takes effort and because of this, a natural responsibility for the survival of your plants starts to take bloom within you. Sometimes you see them from seed to blossoming shrub. Other times you forget to water them and they die. Regardless, caring for something other than yourself can be gratifying and purposeful. And as a bonus, the hard work will provide you with tasty little vegetables (who doesn't love free food?). 

So what if you don't have a backyard? This is a tough challenge for many people. If you live in the northern hemisphere, your first step is to find south. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you should find north. These directions provide the most sunlight. Once you've found your ideal spot, look for areas to put planters. Balconies are excellent places for container gardening.

And there you have it! Just a few of the ways that gardening can make you happier!  

It’s important to remember that while gardening can have a positive impact on your mental wellness, it does not replace professional care. As some who deals with ADHD and other challenges, gardening has offered me with meaningful work that helps to abate symptoms. However, if you’re struggling, please seek professional help.

PS. Looking for more gardening inspiration? Check out our new Balcony Garden exhibit located in the Ken Spencer Science Park!

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