Gardening as Therapy: Cultivating Wellness and Connection to Nature

benefits of gardening

The health benefits of gardening go far beyond the delicious food, herbs, and flowers you harvest throughout the season. (Though there are few things as rewarding as biting into the food you grew yourself!) 

That primal sensation of growing plants, touching the earth, basking in the sunshine, and nurturing seeds rejuvenates both your mental and physical well-being. Although I don’t always have time to garden, I have high hopes for starting a garden every year because I love all the benefits of it.

Those who do garden feel deeply rooted in the present in those moments, and that sense of presence is powerful for our mental health. But that’s not the only benefit. Being in nature, having your hands in the dirt, and other aspects of gardening boost feelings of enjoyment and calm and promote self-care. Plus it can actually be a great low-impact movement option and help you feel more connected to others.

If you’re ready to start your first vegetable garden—or already love gardening and just want to learn more—let’s dive into why this is a great addition to your mental health toolkit.

The Wholesome Joys of Gardening

At Lindywell, we believe in living a wholistically healthy lifestyle. That means thinking about more than just what you eat and how you move. We also want you to do things that make you happy, reduce stress, and support your sleep. All of this impacts every aspect of your life in meaningful ways. 

Gardening is a hobby that helps you reap all of those rewards, but it’s about so much more than just being in a green space, which we know reduces stress. Let’s get into the specifics of why you may need to become a garden gal this year!

Gardening for Your Physical Health

You may be surprised to know that gardening has physical benefits! Yes, gardening is a low-impact, moderate-intensity form of exercise that can easily be tailored to all mobility levels. 

Interestingly, participating in this activity for about 150 minutes (2.5 hours) a week could lower your risk of chronic medical issues such as type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, or even cancer, while bolstering resilience and life satisfaction. Sign me up!

The functional movements associated with this physical activity can also increase flexibility, strength, bone density, balance, and range of motion—all of which we need now and as we age joyfully. Meanwhile, getting sunshine will stimulate Vitamin D production, which regulates your metabolism, enhances sleep quality, reduces inflammation, and protects against arthritis or chronic pain. 

As if it couldn’t get any better, eating fresh produce from your garden will nurture a healthy gut microbiome thanks to the vitamin-synthesizing bacteria in the soil. This helps you digest vital nutrients like fiber, iron, selenium, antioxidants, and Vitamins C and K—all of which the body requires to perform essential organ, cellular, and brain functions. And that’s just the start of the benefits!

Gardening to Connect With Nature

Almost 90 percent of gardeners feel the main benefit of this activity is a connection to nature. Gardening is full of sensory and somatic practices like breathing in the fresh air, listening to the sounds of birds, or noticing how soil feels on your skin. 

This can help you tune out distractions and immerse yourself in natural surroundings, dissipating your stress as the peace sets in. I can feel that ease even just thinking about it. Time spent in nature has a soothing effect on the neuroendocrine system as well, reducing cortisol levels, which can boost immune function and mood.

Ultimately, the stronger your connection to nature, the deeper the sense of fulfillment you’ll have. Connecting back to nature is specifically associated with mental health, emotional balance, vitality, personal growth, stress relief, self-acceptance, joyfulness, and meaning in life. All of which can help reset the nervous system, too. (And most of us can use more nervous system support!)

Gardening for Mindfulness

Gardening as a therapeutic intervention shares many similarities with mindfulness practices such as meditation, breathwork, gratitude affirmations, or gentle movement. Those who garden often report a heightened awareness of the present, which reinforces attentional focus, cognitive function, self-efficacy, and positive mental health outcomes.

Gardening for Stress Relief and Mental Health Benefits

You may be realizing that the way you feel after spending time in the garden isn’t just in your head. That stress relief you feel isn’t either—there’s a direct correlation between gardening activities and lower rates of chronic stress, anxiety, or depression. 

This is thanks to the restorative effects of nature, which create a psychological response to stabilize blood pressure and cortisol levels, thus increasing your mood, positive affect, and emotional regulation. This is actually called horticultural therapy and it’s been documented since the 19th century!

Plus, interacting with flowers, plants, and other natural elements can calm the autonomic nervous system, which has also been shown to strengthen mental resilience and promote healthy stress management. The more resilience you cultivate, the easier it becomes to recover from stressful circumstances, adapt to challenges, and steer clear of harmful coping mechanisms or impulsive reactions. 

Gardening for Self-Esteem and Connection

As if it couldn’t get any better, gardening can also boost your self-esteem, happiness, quality of life, and mental wellbeing. If you plant in a community garden, social interaction can also cause you to experience less loneliness and feel more connection and cohesion. 

Community gardening is a great way to get to know the people around you if you’re new to your area or just haven’t had a chance to connect yet—another important aspect of your mental health.

Now I’m really ready to finally get into the garden! It’s incredible to me what a positive impact this hobby can have on our lives.

Grow, Flourish, and Thrive with Lindywell 

Here at Lindywell, we’re all about making play a daily habit and taking care of your whole self—mind and body! Gardening checks each of those boxes, not to mention, the results are so worthwhile. Soaking in the beauty of colorful flowers or taking a bite of fresh, juicy tomatoes make summer even better.

If you’re looking for more enjoyable, therapeutic ways to nurture your well-being and flourish in all areas of life, come grow with us at Lindywell. As a member of our vibrant, global community, you get access to nourishing recipes (that you’ll need with all that fresh produce!), mindful breathwork sessions, and 350+ Pilates classes to help you thrive from the inside out. Start your 14-day free trial now!

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