Starting your own garden is a good idea. You not only get healthy food from your back yard, but it is also a great exercise. Gardening has a history that dates back to ancient times, before humans even had a written language. Archeological sites show that Homo sapiens not only gathered various vegetables, fruits, roots, and nuts, but also grew and cultivated them.
Gardening certainly has its roots in survival, but it has survived even in the modern world, where food is readily available in the grocery store. So why would anyone have a garden of their own? Here are some benefits of starting a garden of your own.
1. Stress relief
Sure, there are times when the plants just aren’t growing right, moments when you need to contact pest control services for an infested garden, but for the most part, gardening is a wonderful way to relieve the stress in your life.
It all has to do with directed attention, which is your ability to voluntarily focus and direct your thoughts to performing a certain task. However, long, sustained directed attention is difficult and tiring, leading to directed attention fatigue, something that far too many people suffer from—just imagine all the emails, tweets, status updates, phone calls, and work that’s thrown at you throughout the day. This fatigue leads to irritability, distraction, stress, and the classic brain fart.
Fortunately, this fatigue is reversible, and that’s where gardening comes into play. Gardening requires involuntary attention, which means it doesn’t take much mental effort to tend to your garden or enjoy nature. Placing yourself in such a natural environment and taking part in easy, repetitive, soothing tasks gets your eyes uncrossed and your brow unfurrowed (albeit a little sweaty).
2. Alleviate depression
If you’re feeling down in the dumps, planting a garden may be just what the doctor ordered. The lift in spirits could come from a wide range of factors associated with gardening. Spending time in the sun is known to increase production of serotonin in the body. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found primarily in the gut that helps to boost mood, among other things.
Gardening also poses an element of care-giving. You’re responsible for turning these few seeds into large plants, flowers, or veggies. This is just like caring for a pet. Being charged with the growth and well-being of something outside yourself increases your sense of worth and purpose, both of which can help comfort depression.
Other scientists have a slightly more radical idea about how gardening can ease depression. Soil is rich with a variety of natural chemicals and bacteria, including Mycobacterium vaccae. This harmless strain of bacteria has been shown to trigger the release and metabolism of serotonin, improve cognitive function, and potentially treat a variety of diseases. Digging around in the soil may actually make you feel good at a physiological level.
While it’s not as strenuous as training for a marathon, gardening certainly gets your blood pumping and sweat moving. Weeding, planting, digging, sifting, and all the other repetitive tasks of gardening present excellent low-impact forms of exercise that require some strength and stretching. This makes gardening a great activity for those who can’t perform more vigorous exercises.
The best part: you’re more likely to stick to this exercise because it’s not exercise just for the sake of it. There’s a reason for doing everything. You’re motivated to want to perform better as it means being able to pull up weeds better or dig faster.
If you’re looking for a healthier, happier life, your best solution may be to plant yourself a garden. Good luck and happy planting.
home grown tomato image by Wikimedia Commons