Does Gardening Relieve Stress?
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Gardening Provides Several Kinds of Pleasure
Gardening reduces stress partly because it provides so much pleasure.
There’s the pleasure of being in nature, usually outside but also fun if you are in a greenhouse or even puttering with houseplants. Last winter I grew lettuce and kale inside, in our south-facing windows, and the plants provided a lot of satisfaction day by day.
There’s the pleasure of watching for seeds to come up and then watching the plants grow.
There’s the fun of anticipating good things to eat, if you grow vegetables. And if you haven’t yet, try a few! Growing vegetables also offers the satisfaction of saving money.
Here is a delightful book by a tenth-generation gardener:
Gardening is Exercise, and Exercise Helps Reduce Stress
Another aspect of the stress management provided by gardening is that it provides exercise. Bending over for a tool, pulling a few weeds, thinning the radishes, watering with a hose or watering can… all these activities provide you with exercise which you can tailor to your body’s condition. My husband does the heavy lifting while I move the small and medium-sized containers in my container garden, and that reflects what we each can do. He can do just about anything and I have some limits.
I wasn’t surprised to read recently that studies have been done on the effects of gardening on stress and fatigue. It was found that even a half-hour stint of gardening in a week made people feel better and less tired. Other studies have indicated that the stretching, bending, and other garden activities count as low impact exercises. So picking strawberries can be good for your flexibility!
What about pain relief? I can attest to that. If I have a headache or other ache, sometimes I do take a pill of some sort, but I like to go do a few minutes of gardening first and see if I even remember afterwards that I was hurting.
My husband teased me when I bought a garden cart five years ago that I would get less exercise, just sitting around in the garden, but it hasn’t worked out that way at all.
In fact, sometimes he has the thing in use when I want it.
I keep my gloves and tools in it, and I keep it in the greenhouse. While it’s totally washable, it can collect water from unexpected rains.
Here’s a link to the current version of the cart.
Gardening Brings Family Together
If you have children, you have noticed that they will do some tasks far more willingly than others. Many children like gardening and you can tailor the tasks to their interests and skills. Spending time together in the garden offers a good time to chat about things while you work. It can reduce the stress your kids are dealing with too!
An Outdoor Haven in the Garden
One enjoyable aspect of gardening is that you might end up with an outdoor haven, a place to sit with a cup of tea or coffee and contemplate your plants. This has just happened to us inadvertently: here Kelly is walking through our outdoor patio near the garden. We aleady had the table and chairs and the rope swing.
And you could plan such a spot with your favorite flowers or with decorative vegetables like the fancy kales. In a large enough garden, you could make a walking lane. That too just happened in our new garden. (We moved here last summer.) The swales in the vegetable garden make great walking paths, right up to our back wall. I like to stretch my legs between computer tasks. By the way, the fence on the left is a trellis for tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, squash, and the like. They aren’t climbing yet.
Saving Money on Vegetables is Definitely a Stress Reliever
While you may not save money when you are buying tools and getting the garden set up, in later years you can save a lot by growing your own veggies. I get a kick out of going to the grocery store and NOT buying lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, broccoli, green beans, or strawberries! And since most of the produce we do buy is organic, and we garden organically, that increases the savings at the grocery store.
Gardening Does Something about What’s Going On in the World
I admit it, I can worry about our world. A lot. I will spare you a list of my top worries, but working in the garden takes me away from them. And having a garden is a good response to some of the uncertainties out there. My roots go back to the back-to-the-land era… well, actually, I’ve loved gardening since I was seven or eight years old.
Creating a truly effective garden takes a while. Kelly and I have lived in quite a few places over our years together, and we have gardened everywhere. I’d say there have only been a few gardens that were truly amazing. We moved to our present location, Silver City, NM, last year, in part because we wanted a better gardening environment than cold and windy Colorado, where we had been for close to tweny years.
We are dedicated to having one of our best gardens ever here on our quarter-acre lot in town, partly because the world is more uncertain and we like the security of producing our own high quality food. We’ve learned from all our gardens, the good ones and the others. It’s comforting to have that knowledge base.
So to return to the theme of this article, does gardening relieve stress? Yes, yes, and yes!