How Do Dirty Work Enhances Mental Health

Gardening is a great way to feel all the feelings. Sunshine, fresh air and a new way to enjoy your day. Plants can provide a respite from your stress and provide a workout also. This is how they work and the reason why it’s important.

Sure, caring for and growing plants can be a lot of work but it’s a positive idea when the work helps you feel more relaxed.

A renowned environmentalist Luther Burbank (who died in 1924) wrote “Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.”

Burbank has made a great idea that could be more relevant now, considering the increasing rates of depression, anxiety and suicidality.

A new study conducted by at the University of Colorado (funded by the American Cancer Society) and published in January 2023 by the publication Lancet Planetary Health found that individuals who began gardening noticed their anxiety and stress levels drop significantly.

The gardeners were all first-timers The study monitored their mental and physical health throughout and after an ensuing growing season. The participants who struggled with anxiety and stress experienced the biggest improvement in their mental health problems.

Gardening can provide so many positive effects on health, horticultural therapy actually is something that is actually. However, you don’t need an extensive garden or a green thumb or a trained, specially-trained counselor in order to benefit from the natural world. Here’s how:

Gardening Basics

Many gardeners consume what they plant. Instead of buying vegetables and herbs at the supermarket and growing the plants at the home. Some people have more aesthetic needs. They tend to grow vibrant plants and flowers because they appreciate their beauty and also how they smell.

Gardening is versatile. Your preferences, knowledge (or inexperience) as well as your surroundings (inside or outside) can be met. Outdoor gardening is a wonderful method to be in touch to nature, and get exercise in the process. Participants of the Colorado study noticed measurable improvement in their health due to the increase in physical activity that comes from gardening.

The indoor gardening that is done in a pot close to a bright window offers all year round benefits. A study from 2015 found it that “interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in young adults.”

Other factors to consider include the what kind of soil you choose, the amount of sun exposure, and considerations for wildlife (gardens are often an attractive feast for the local deer, rabbits and other creatures based the area you live). There are also essential tools, a pair gardening gloves and clothing which shield you from sunlight and pests. Check out the resources below for more information that will assist you in getting started.

The Power of Flowers

There’s a reason why children always appear so content when enjoying playing with dirt. “Putting your hands in the soil releases feel good chemicals in the brain and grounds the nervous system, ” Explains Hannah Brents, LICSW, of Safe Talk Therapy in Boston. The beneficial bacteria that live in soil have been proven (in mouse studies) to boost serotonin levels and decrease anxiety.

While gardening can be therapeutic Certain plants possess unique characteristics that may enhance the benefits. Ellie Borden, BA, RP, PCC, a psychotherapist, states, “Some plants that help the most are those that possess an uplifting scent, vibrant color, and look appealing. For instance, peppermint, lavender vera and the chamomile. These plants work with the brain’s neurotransmitters to help relax the nervous system.”

Other plants, including snake plant, aloe vera as well as spider plants and the chrysanthemums, aid in improving the quality of air and cognitive function. Taryn Fernandes MD is a doctor at MEDvidi which is an on-line mental health center, discusses. “Rosemary has a stimulating effect on the brain and improves memory and cognitive function, while visually appealing plants like Gerbera daisy and chrysanthemums positively impact mood and well-being.”

Go Ahead, Get Dirty

The notion that gardening can improve the mental health of a person and their wellbeing is not a new idea. The concept of horticultural therapy (HT) is the practice of making use of plants and other activities to enhance well-being first discovered during the late 19th century by a physician Benjamin Rush, MD. Dr. Rush has documented how working with plants could benefit his patients in his Philadelphia clinic.

It is the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Studies declares on its website “An increasingly large body of research attests to the unique values of horticulture as a therapeutic modality for people with physical, mental, emotional, and social disabilities, as plants are non-discriminating and non-threatening, and anyone can be successful utilizing this medium.”

It doesn’t matter if you’re suffering from anxiety to benefit from an increase in mood from these things. People who don’t have any mental health problems benefit, too.

In a research study published in PLOS ONE, University of Florida researchers found that gardening reduces depression, anxiety and stress among healthy women. Charles Guy, the principal participant in the study, and professor emeritus of the department of Environmental Horticulture at UF/IFAS describes, “(While) past studies have shown that gardening can help improve the mental health of people who have existing medical conditions or challenges. Our study shows that healthy people can also experience a boost in mental well-being through gardening.”

There are a variety of reasons the reasons why gardening is an asset to mental well-being. “Gardening provides a space to be creative, exercise, decompress, and have fun, ” says Borden. It also assists by enhancing mindfulness, which can reduce anxiety and stress. When people are gardening they tend to be focused on their task at hand. They are doing the planting or watering, weeding, and cutting. They are present focused, offering some care, and maybe getting away from the stress of their day.

Gardening can also boost self-esteem since it helps to build the sense of purpose. When people are gardening they must put in the time as well as dedication to be able to be rewarded for their efforts. As time passes, they will be satisfied and feel a sense of satisfaction when they see their plants grow.

Being accountable to a living creature other than oneself that requires to be cared for (watered and trimmed, or exposed to sunlight) can reduce anxiety.

Group Think

In the aftermath of the pandemic, a lot of people were looking for ways to spend their time at home. Gardening was one of the best options. Individual gardeners would go outside to relax in the nature or tend to indoor plants such as potted herb plants. In those times of high anxiety, gardening was a means to relax and remain at peace, a way to remain present and away from the events of the world.

Community gardens are the way that gardening is accomplished in shared spaces. If you are living in a house or do not have a garden or garden, it is possible that the American Community Gardening Association can connect you with plots within the area of your zip code so that you can collaborate with your neighbors.

Beyond enjoyment, gardening with a group helps improve mental health as well. (In certain parts of the three studies mentioned above, people were enrolled in a community garden.) The researcher Dr. Fernandes explains, “Community gardening can improve social skills through social interaction and support.”

In Texas A&M University, The Gardens is a 27-acre, public gardening area on campus that is a living laboratory for inspirational, educational and leisure experiences.

In an article published in AgriLife Today, Joseph Johnson The Gardens’ manager, Joseph Johnson The Gardens, states, “The Gardens to enrich their (students faculty, students and other community members) by bringing them into the world of horticulture. Community members and students are more relaxed in this beautiful and peaceful place. It helps them feel more relaxed in their souls and minds.”

No Green Thumb? No Problem

Gardening comes naturally for those who have green thumbs, whereas some people think they’re so untrained they’re able to kill the fake fern. The good thing is that you don’t have for a gardener’s skill in order to benefit from the mental health benefits.

“Gardening is an art which can be developed by practice and education even if you’re not a natural gardener Dr. Fernandes says. “We advise starting with low-maintenance plants, such as succulents, aloe vera, spider plants, and crops like tomatoes and peppers.”

Continuously monitoring and changing the routines of care, as well being patient and persistent is also essential.”

If you’re just beginning to learn about gardening, think about a low-maintenance easy-to-maintain plant such as succulents. Spring is coming. So, put on your gardening gloves and head out and start digging.

Credits: fifthplanet         &      usmedspharma

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