Since the days of the visionary nurse Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), people have used gardens to promote healing and reduce stress. What is it about a garden that lifts our spirits, and how can gardening improve our mental health?
Studies show that observing nature or even images of natural scenes have positive effects on our mood and mental health. Patients who can see plants from their hospital rooms need less pain medication and have fewer surgical complications. Hospital courtyard gardens lift the spirits of patients, visitors, and staff.
Gardening is great for your mind and your body. Activities like digging and weeding build strength and dexterity. They can also increase focus and decrease anxiety and depression. Outdoor gardening exposes you to sunlight, which increases vitamin D levels. This can help lower your blood pressure and heart rate.
Even Better with Others
While gardening offers a lot of personal benefits, it doesn’t need to be a solitary activity.
Working with neighbors to beautify a park, school, or other outdoor space can increase community pride. It can also restore social connections that may have been lost during the pandemic.
Community vegetable gardens are growing in popularity. They provide nutritious food for people who live in food deserts or are struggling with food insecurity. And growing food is good for you, too. Studies show people who grow food tend to make healthier food choices.
“Gardening is an all-ages activity, but it’s a great activity for seniors,” says geriatrician and Independence Blue Cross Medical Director for Government Markets Heidi J. Syropoulos, M.D. “Most people think of gardening as an outdoor activity. But gardening is also watering houseplants, growing fresh microgreens on a kitchen windowsill, or tending strawberry bushes on your porch. You get physical and mental health benefits from plants, regardless of whether they are indoors or outside.”
No Green Thumb Necessary
Some people have a talent for growing plants. If that’s not you, don’t worry. Gardening websites and home and garden centers can help you find your inner green thumb.
Seed mats make it easy to grow flowers or veggies. These thin sheets have seeds woven into them. You put the sheet in dirt, cover it with soil, and water as directed. In a few weeks, you have a beautiful garden. If you need something easier, mini-cactus blooms can brighten your space and your mood.
A Local Tradition
In our region, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) promotes horticulture – the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, and plants – to advance the health and well-being of the people of Philadelphia. The PHS plans and oversees the Philadelphia Flower Show, which is the largest, longest-running horticultural event in the country. In addition to working throughout the year to maintain free public gardens in more than 250 neighborhoods, PHS offers educational activities for gardeners of all levels.
Gardening improves your mental and physical health. Whether it provides a creative outlet, a chance to strengthen community ties, or a way to brighten your home and mood, the benefits of gardening keep blossoming.
For more information about mental health, self-care strategies, and where to find help, visit ibx.com/knowyourmind.