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7 Health Benefits of Gardening

7 Health Benefits of Gardening

While some people like to get their hands dirty literally, pouring their love into soil and actually growing plants, crops, or flowers, others just shy away from the whole idea completely, concluding gardening as a gross pastime that is not for them. Health experts have actually shown that gardening is good for your health. Surprised? Don’t be. Let’s take a look at some of the ways gardening actually aids us in maintaining good health.

1. Stress Relief

Gardening allows you to be more relaxed and one with all the sunshine and fresh air. It equally boosts your immune system function while enabling you to be more productive because there’s no greater measure of one’s power to create positive change in the world than to nurture a plant from a seed to a fruit-bearing plant. Studies have shown that after a day of sitting at your desk, or after a highly stressful day, getting your hands into the dirt and nurturing your garden reduces levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.

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2. Physical Activity

Gardening might just be all the workout you need. As a pleasurable and goal-oriented outdoor activity, gardening has another advantage because people are more likely to stick with it and do it often. It is important to note that the amount of exertion needed for gardening really depends on the size of the garden. Gardening is hardly like pumping iron. Unless you’re hauling wheelbarrows of dirt long distances daily, mowing or shoveling or pruning probably won’t do much for your cardiovascular fitness.

However, digging, planting, weeding, and other repetitive tasks that require strength or stretching are excellent forms of low-impact exercise. This could be more effective, especially for people who find more energetic exercise a challenge, like people who are older or suffering from a chronic disease. Besides, general activities in gardening also help to get your blood pumping.

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3. Anti-depressants

Dirt contains a natural antidepressant called mycobacterium vaccae. According to research, this particular antidepressant microbe causes cytokine levels to increase, which in turns boosts the production of serotonin. People with some mental illnesses have been advised to try horticultural therapy, a garden with a combination of fruits and vegetables as well as scented and flowering plants to nourish all the senses. From visual aesthetic appeal to the refreshing scent of fresh flowers to the nutritional benefits, succeeding at gardening also fosters a sense of confidence, satisfaction, and increases self-esteem.

Once the flowers have bloomed and the fruits have been harvested, looking back on the work that went into the gardening and landscaping will provide you with an overwhelming sense of pride, confidence, and satisfaction, which helps to deal or helps patients cope with illnesses. The overall benefits, apart from the one listed above, seem to spring from a combination of physical activity, awareness of their surroundings, cognitive stimulation, and the satisfaction derived from the work. This is why different farming techniques like the hydroponics farming system is becoming more popular in many therapy centers.[1]

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4. Healthier Food

People who grow food tend to eat healthier than those that don’t, as several studies have shown that gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables than their peers. Home gardens are likely to be filled with fresh fruits and vegetables that are organic and free of harsh chemicals, which are among the healthiest food that should be in our diets. Homegrown produce have also been reported to taste better than store-bought produce.

5. Brain Nutrition

One long-term study followed nearly 3,000 older adults for 16 years, tracking the incidence of all kinds of dementia and assessing a variety of lifestyle factors. Researchers found daily gardening to represent the single biggest risk reduction for dementia, reducing incidences by 36%. Another study estimated the risk reduction at a whopping 47%. This is because gardening involves so many of our critical functions, including learning, problem-solving, and sensory awareness, that its benefits are likely to represent a synthesis of various aspects.

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6. Hand Strength and Dexterity

As people get older, agility and strength in the hands may gradually reduce and this may limit the range of activities that are possible or pleasurable for them. Gardening, however, keeps those hand muscles vigorous and agile. Remember not to overdo it, as gardening can also cause repetitive stress injuries, tendonitis, and carpal tunnel. Practice hand-healthy gardening by using a few simple warm-ups, positioning your body comfortably and ergonomically, changing tasks frequently before strain becomes evident, and also balancing tasks between both hands also helps the brain.

7. Vitamin D

Gardening gets you out in the sun, sunlight being a good source of vitamin D. Very few foods actually contain vitamin D, which is instrumental in preventing a number of chronic illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Those with low vitamin D levels may be doubling their risk of dying of heart disease, osteoporosis, and some forms of cancer.

Gardening has a lot of positive effects on us as individuals, on the environment, and on the planet as a whole. Many now consider gardening as a form of spiritual cultural quest.[2] This, in part, is because gardening and tending the plants can be soothing and has great impact on our health. The good thing about it is that you can start small if the idea of gardening overwhelms you. You could start with a few pots of flowers, set time out to see to their care, and grow to love the soil.

Reference

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Amber McNaught

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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