Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for brain balance and an overall feeling of mental and emotional wellness. Sunlight has been shown to increase serotonin levels naturally. Increased serotonin may be directly related to combating melancholy, as evidenced by the use of pharmaceutical SSRIs in the treatment of depressed patients. Tending to gardens outdoors can help to alleviate sad feelings.
Garden activities allow one the opportunity to notice things like colors, growth patterns, natural sounds, and earthy or flowery aromas. This brings focused mindfulness to the activity. Mindfulness is akin to meditation in bringing one clearly into the present. When we are present, we are not worrying about things that happened yesterday or terrible events that might occur in the future. It makes good sense that working mindfully in a garden can help reduce anxiety.
Stress comes in many forms and is not always well addressed with medications. Mental stress causes our physical bodies to react adversely to compensate. We might have shortness of breath, poor sleep habits, or aches and pains. Being outside in the fresh air and sunlight has a positive impact on our bodies on a cellular level. Fresh air brings necessary healing oxygen into our bodies. Sunlight promotes vitamin D synthesis to help our immune systems function properly. Exposure to the sun also increases melatonin, which is necessary for sleep. These are some of the things that are beneficial in the management of stress.
Can engaging in garden activities be considered a form of fitness? You can get a decent aerobic workout digging a new garden, weeding, lifting, and putting down mulch. This will strengthen and tone your muscles while promoting cardiovascular health. If you are more of a passive gardener or an indoor gardener, don’t think you are not exercising. Doing any activity will help burn calories and keep your joints flexible rather than being completely sedentary. Researchers at Texas A&M University claim that you can burn 300 calories per hour gardening.
The Bottom Line
Garden therapy is a real and beneficial practice used to help people of all ages and with varied health conditions. Some professionals specialize in this form of treatment. It is just as beneficial if you were to join a community garden project or club. The social aspect of nurturing a garden with others can have tremendous positive health implications. Starting a small backyard garden, or finding a sunny spot inside your home to tend to potted plants are also good practices. Being a part of the transformation that plants go through should result in only positive outcomes for your mental and physical well being.