Self-care is often an overlooked piece of living a healthy balanced life. Self-care is engaging in anything that helps to manage your physical and emotional needs. Gardening is a form of self-care that can help to relieve stress. To honor National Gardening Week, April 10th through April 16th, we will talk about why gardening is good for your mental health and some ways to incorporate it into your water garden.
Many people decide to garden to beautify their yard or pond or to grow their own food. It can start with a few flowerpots and then turn into a flowerbed or vegetable patch. Gardening can be addictive once a person sees their flowers or vegetables grow and/or notice the benefits it has to offer.
Gardening has been found to be a great stress reliever. But why and how does it relieve stress? According to a study published in the Journal of Health Psychology, the physical act of gardening can cause a reduction of cortisol in the body, a chemical also known as the stress hormone. When cortisol levels are low the body feels less anxiety. The study also found that gardening after a stressful task restored a positive mood and suggests it “promotes relief from acute stress.”
Gardening is also known to reduce symptoms of attention fatigue, which is caused by reaching your limit of directed attention. Directed attention is utilized when sending emails or making phone calls and when a person reaches their capacity they can become irritable, distracted, and stressed. Gardening combats attention fatigue because when active in nature, a person engages in effortless or involuntary attention that gives the brain some rest. Gardening also happens to have a positive effect on mood. The garden is called people’s “happy place” for a reason. Research shows that bacteria, mycobacterium vaccae, found in soil can, "mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide." These bacteria stimulate serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps people to feel happy and relaxed. Gardening also provides exercise, which releases endorphins that help to regulate stress. Gardening along with being outdoors in your yard or sitting by your pond, can also help keep your brain alert and reduce your risk of developing dementia according to CNN.
Spring is in full swing and now is the perfect time to put those gardening skills to use. Many people are opening their ponds after the cold winter and adding some flowers, plants, or shrubs to your water garden can not only add a beautiful aesthetic but can also reduce your stress. Visit your local Home Depot garden center to get all the materials you will need. Start gardening now to implement self-care into your life and reap all the benefits it has to offer!