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Health Benefits

A recent report by The King’s Fund sets out the wide ranging health benefits of gardens and gardening. From reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer – to helping to combat anxiety and stress.

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Why gardening is good for you

Research by UK economist and behavioural scientist Professor Paul Dolan found that gardeners and florists are the happiest of all professions. Much happier than people in more well paid and prestigious jobs.

A behavioural research study conducted by Dr Nancy Etcoff of the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, reveals that – when fresh cut flowers are present in the home – people feel more compassionate toward others, have fewer worries and anxiety, and feel less depressed.

The Home Ecology of Flowers Study at Harvard uncovered three main findings
1. Flowers feed compassion
Study participants who lived with fresh-cut flowers felt an increase in feelings of compassion and kindness towards others.

2. Flowers chase away anxieties, worries and the blues
Overall, people in the study felt less negative after being around flowers at home for just a few days. Participants most frequently placed flowers in their kitchens, dining rooms and living rooms – those areas of the home where they spend most time. They reported a need to see blooms first thing in the morning. Etcoff explains that in general: “The morning blues, it turns out, is a real phenomenon, with positive moods – happiness, friendliness and warmth, for example – manifesting much later in the day.” She adds: “Interestingly, when we placed a small bouquet of flowers into their morning routines, people perked up.”

3. Living with flowers can provide a boost of energy, happiness and enthusiasm at work
Having flowers at home can have a carryover impact on your mood at work, too. The study found that people were more likely to feel happier and display more enthusiasm and energy at work when flowers brightened up their home living environments.

 

Grounding yourself

Much has been written about connecting with nature and spending time in the great outdoors. But even stepping into your own garden or veggie patch for a moment brings health benefits.

Spending time in your garden and getting your hands dirty can expose you to friendly bacteria in the soil, which can improve your mood as well as boost your immune system. The psychological benefits of gardening have been well documented.

 

Bless this day our daily greens

Eating your daily greens does wonders for your health.  With juicing now a trend, you can vary your daily intake by the plate or by the glass.

Nothing is more rewarding than growing what you eat (or drink) yourself.  The health benefits are plentiful: take for example what humble kale gives you:

• Anti cancer properties
• 45 different antioxidant flavonoids
• Exceptional source of vitamin K
• Calcium rich

 

Nature’s medicine

Being in your own piece of paradise (even if you don’t eat your own produce) produces food for the soul.

According to various scientific studies, gardening:
• Lowers blood pressure
• Increases brain activity
• Has a calming effect on one’s mood
• Positively affects mental health
• Counters stress and anxiety
• Cuts stroke and heart attack risk by up to 30% for those over 60
• Reverses “attention fatigue”
• Gives a sense of purpose, satisfaction and achievement

In a Norwegian study people diagnosed with depression, persistent low mood, or “bipolar II disorder” spent six hours a week growing flowers and vegetables. After three months, half the participants had experienced a measurable improvement in their symptoms. Curiously, this mood persisted three months after the programme ended.

 

Getting grounded

Anyone from a newbie gardener to a gardening guru can benefit from the calming effects of mulching, potting, pruning or weeding.

Gardening encourages one to focus on the task at hand and by doing so living in the here and now.  Everyday stressors dwindle as one gains a peaceful and grounded state of mind.

 

Stop to smell the roses

Being in the midst of nature is thought to enhance meditation practices by focusing the mind.  In fact gardening has been credited as a type of meditation similar to yoga or exercise forms that help bring one into the present moment.  Zen gardens specialize in reflection and contemplation.

According to Clare Cooper Professor Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley, and one of the founders of environmental psychology: “When you are looking intensely at something, or you bend down to smell something, you bypass the [analytical] function of the mind. You stop obsessing and worrying: your senses are awaked, you enter the present moment, you move to ‘the zone’.”

 

Weeding out your inner creative

Gardening helps inspire creativity and allows individuals to express themselves in unique ways. It offers an outlet to connect with oneself, one’s dreams and one’s passions by creating a space to reflect, nurture and grow.  Being creative makes for happy humans.

 

Germinating the next generation

Fun and education can be rolled into one by introducing children to gardening.  Studies of after-school programs suggest that children who garden are more likely to eat fruit and vegetables.

Further health benefits for children spending time in nature include:
• It makes them more active.
• Studies show that ADD symptoms can be reduced through activities in green settings.
• Helps improve development and play.

 

 

Healing spaces

Gardens are proving to be places of healing which fulfil a spectrum of needs. Health benefits include:

• Relief from symptoms
• Stress reduction
• Improvement in overall wellness

 

Marigold memories

Whilst gardens change with the seasons, they make memories, help us remember loved ones and witness re-birth and re-growth. This year’s produce can be next year’s seeds.

 

As fresh as a daisy

Several studies show that gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables than their peers and people who grow their food tend to eat (and be) healthier.

 

Budding communities

Community gardens bring people together and create a common purpose.  Everyone has a need to belong.  Being a part of a community fulfils this and with that comes a range of health benefits for the individuals involved. These include:

• Increased feelings of happiness and contentment by making new friends
• Feeling fulfilled and having fun
• Counteracting stress and anxiety
• Protecting against isolation and feelings of depression
• Providing a sense of purpose and mental stimulation

 

Therapeutic gardens

Therapeutic gardens are green spaces found mainly in hospitals, healthcare facilities and hospice residences (to name a few) with the main focus being to improve health and wellbeing. They are specifically designed to meet the spiritual, psychological, physical or social needs of patients, family, caregivers and friends serving to either engage or be used as quiet spaces for healing through nature.

Healing gardens, rehabilitation gardens and restorative gardens are all forms of therapeutic gardens.

The health benefits of these gardens are many but include:
• Reconnecting with nature by awakening the senses
• Encouraging activity (movement /or exercise)
• Providing natural distractions thus reducing stress
• Lowering of blood pressure

 

Healing with plants

Social and therapeutic horticulture has the power to transform people’s lives including those living with disabilities, ill health and other physical or mental challenges. In a garden environment, new skills are developed, greater independence gained and lives enriched.

Connecting through nature by way of therapeutic horticulture health benefits include:
• Improved overall physical health
• Better social skills
• Improved muscle strength