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Gardening is Good for Your Health

It makes sense that being around plants is good for you both mentally and physically. We are generally happier and less stressed when we are surrounded by plants, but is this science or all in our heads?

Well, research backs this up.

In fact, more and more, gardening has been shown to provide significant health benefits. In a meta-analysis by Soga et al. published in Preventative Medicine Reports, researchers looked at 76 studies from the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East comparing the health effects of gardening with control groups of non-gardeners. The studies showed health benefits such as reduced depression and anxiety as well as decreased body weight and increased life satisfaction and sense of community.

The researchers went on to say that their findings indicated that gardening had the potential to reduce worldwide healthcare costs as there is evidence that it improved physical, psychological, and social health. In addition, they suggested that it could be important to public policy and that government organizations should consider gardening an important health intervention. Officials should also encourage gardening as a form of exercise for the public.

In another article published in the Royal College of Physicians, Journal of Clinical Medicine, author Richard Thompson discussed the idea that there is increasing evidence that regular exposure to plants and green space, specifically gardening, is beneficial to mental and physical health. He stated that if health professionals were to be more aggressive in their encouragement of gardening to their patients, it could actually reduce pressure on already overstretched national health services. Thompson went on to say that to accomplish this, authorities would need to increase the number of trees and public open spaces. Additionally, this would help to counteract the effects of pollution and climate change.

Taking this thought one step further, gardening may be an alternative to certain drug therapies or, at least, used in conjunction with existing therapies for things like anxiety and depression, as it is my personal opinion that there is an over-prescription of medication in society in general. Thompson, based in the UK, suggests that health providers and government institutions can do better than simply prescribe medication for certain physical and mental ailments and that whole populations would be better off if we implemented some complementary therapies and gave patients more of a choice.

One such group of therapies that aims to treat the whole person is called Green Care, which is basically gardening and/or exposure to plants. A study in Japan showed that observing nature and being around plants altered EEG recordings and reduced stress and sadness while also lowering blood pressure. Another study showed that when post-operative patients were surrounded by plants, they were able to reduce not only their pain but also the length of their hospital stay. Therapeutic gardens are another simple yet powerful intervention that has been used to heal the sick for thousands of years. These green spaces have been shown to ease patient stress and increase satisfaction with their care.

Not only do plants improve our state of mind, but they also improve our physical environment. Along with being visually appealing, certain plants have been shown to remove pollutants from the air, including dust, chemicals, and microorganisms. So, this spring, get outside and spend time in nature. Go for a hike, kayak a creek, or better yet, plant a garden. Surround yourself with greenery. Your mind and body will thank you.