Growing Your Own Food: The Benefits of Gardening

In the wake of the pandemic, people found themselves having to spend more time and home. Suddenly, books, craft supplies and jigsaw puzzles were more in demand than ever before, folks were getting around to home projects they’ve been putting off for ages.

Starting a home food garden – even a very small one – became one of the more popular spring/summer pandemic activities. It’s no wonder…not only is gardening a productive use of time that results in delicious fresh fruits and vegetables (something especially welcome during a time when supplies were limited and trips to the store undesirable), it’s a healthy activity, too.

The benefits of gardening go far beyond what you grow. Many studies have shown a great number of physical and mental health benefits come from food gardening…gardening has therapeutic power for many people to increase overall health and wellness.

Are you interested in harvesting more than just delicious, all-natural fruits, herbs and veggies? Here are five great reasons for you to get growing right now:

  1. Gardening is good for your physical health. There are many reasons why gardening is good for your physical health:
    1. Gardening for exercise. Gardening is a physical activity, and as such contributes to your overall physical fitness in a practical way. While mostly low-impact, the repetitive motions of weeding and hoeing help strengthen your muscles and refine your fine motor skills.
    2. Gardening is good for your bones and helps fight cancer. In recent decades we’ve learned the importance of shielding our skin from the sun, but we do need some sun exposure to increase our levels of the all-important vitamin D. Sunshine is our primary vitamin D recourse, and spending just half an hour in the garden can get you what you need.
    3. The healing power of gardening. We’re more like plants than we realize! Spending time in the outdoors – especially green spaces – has been found to speed up the healing process for physical wounds.
    4. Gardening can help you lose weight. Studies show that when you garden, you increase your consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables. Combined with the physical activity gardening calls for, starting a garden can make it easier for you to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  2. Gardening is good for your mental health. It wasn’t just our physical health we’ve had to worry about in the midst of the pandemic – the world’s overall mental health took a heavy hit, too. According to some studies, feelings of depression and anxiety were up by at least 25%, and insomnia became rampant. Gardening is one way to help combat these issues, and has been shown in some cases to be as effective as antidepressants or talk therapy:
    1. Gardening can boost mood-enhancing hormones. Studies show that gardening can increase the release of serotonin, which has an anti-depressant effect, while decreasing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
    2. Gardening eases anxiety. When people spend time in a garden, their anxiety levels drop and they feel less depressed.
    3. Gardening boosts selfesteem. Loneliness, isolation and, in some cases, job loss have been just some of the negative effects of the pandemic. But studies in the United States and abroad have found that gardening improves your mood and increases your self-esteem. Perhaps it has something to do with taking your mind off your problems for a bit, or for helping to clear your head with physical activity, or maybe it’s the fact that gardening actually produces something in the form of a harvest. Regardless, the improvements can last for months.
  3. Gardening is good for your overall outlook. When times are tough, it can be hard to get contend with stress and keep negativity at bay, but gardening and spending more time outdoors have a positive impact on your mood, energy level and willingness to socialize.
    1. Gardening can help you recover from a stressful event. In a 2011 study, researchers exposed participants to a stressful activity. Then they asked half the group to spend time quietly reading and the other half to spend time gardening. When researchers tested the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the participants’ bodies, they found that the gardening group had recovered from the stress better than the reading group.
  4. Gardening is good for your brain. Did you know that gardening can help protect your memory as you get older? It’s true – gardening has been shown to increase people’s attention and cognition. Doctors have known for some time that exercise in general improves cognitive functioning in the brain, and studies have shown that, while less high-impact than some activities, gardening helps spur growth in your brain’s memory-related nerves.
    1. Researchers in Korea gave 20-minute gardening activities to people being treated for dementia in an inpatient facility. After the residents had raked and planted in vegetable gardens, researchers discovered increased amounts of some brain nerve growth factors associated with memory in both males and females.
    2. A 2014 research review found that horticultural therapy — using gardening to improve mental health — may be an effective treatment for people with dementia.
  5. Gardening is good for the self-esteem. Gardening has been shown to give people a sense of accomplishment, making them better about themselves and their impact on the world.
    1. School gardens, family gardens, and community gardens are growing in popularity. This is likely due to with the opportunity for social interaction and teamwork that community gardening provides.
    2. In one study, students who participated in school gardens took photos of their work and shared what they experienced. Students reported that the skills they learned and relationships they formed gave them a sense of personal well-being and an increased appreciation for their community.
    3. Working in a garden with people of different ages, abilities, and backgrounds is a way to expand one’s personal knowledge as well as one’s cultural knowledge, understanding and experience..

With all the benefits gardening offers, what are you waiting for? Plan your garden now, and you’ll be harvesting mental, physical, social and spiritual health benefits of all kinds before you know it!