Research suggests being in nature has therapeutic benefits.
A new study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology has found that gardening can have a significant positive impact on both physical and mental health. The study surveyed over 1,000 individuals and discovered that those who gardened regularly had a dramatically lower risk of developing cancer, improved mental health, and an increased sense of community. The study also found that gardening provides a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, reduces stress levels, and promotes relaxation. It can improve physical fitness through regular exercises, such as digging, planting, and watering, and in general, gardening can be a simple and effective way to improve overall health and well-being.
The study specifically found that those who regularly engaged in gardening had a “30% lower risk of developing cancer” when compared to individuals who did not. The researchers believe this may be due to increased exposure to sunlight that gardening provides, which helps the body produce vitamin D, a nutrient linked to cancer prevention. As regular physical activity has been shown to protect against cancer, the physical activity associated with gardening, such as digging, planting, and watering, may also contribute to lower cancer risk.
Individuals who engage in this activity reported lower levels of stress and depression, and previous data suggests this may be due to a combination of factors, including the physical activity, being in nature, and the sense of accomplishment tied to growing one’s food. The researchers believe these elements work together to promote well-being and improve mental health. Growing one’s food also allows individuals to disconnect from technology, which has been proven to “reset” the mind and body, bringing both into balance.
The research revealed gardening could be a powerful tool for bringing communities together, as individuals who engage in this activity reported increased social connection. The research team theorized that this may be the result of the shared experience of gardening and the opportunity for individuals to share their knowledge and skills with others. There are gardening conventions and festivals held regularly throughout many states that enable avid gardeners to meet and share a wealth of knowledge about their pastime. Through participation in gardening, individuals can also connect with their neighbors and develop meaningful relationships, and the act of gardening promote teamwork and collaboration being household members and within communities. Community gardens are a great example of this.
“This study adds to a growing body of evidence that gardening can positively impact both physical and mental health,” said lead researcher Dr. Jane Smith. “We encourage individuals to consider incorporating gardening into their daily routine to improve their overall well-being.”
The American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) is promoting the idea of gardening as a form of therapy by certifying horticultural therapy clinics across America. AHTA establishes guidelines to help gardens become a calming space for all to enjoy. Certain considerations such as walkability and utilization of plants for every season makes therapy gardening a year-long pursuit. Additionally, many colleges and universities offer degrees and certifications to those wishing to help others with gardening as a therapeutic modality.