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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 October 16, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

It’s well past midnight and you’ve got to get up in less than six hours. You toss and turn all night. Before you know it, another hour passes by and you start panicking.

If I don’t get to sleep in the next 30 minutes, I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow!”

One thing is for sure, you’re not alone. Over 70M+ Americans have stated that they don’t get the proper sleep they need at night.[1] So what could possibly be causing this insomnia epidemic?

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey of building my language learning company, I have experimented and researched dozens of best sleep practices. Some have flopped but a few have dramatically improved the quality of my life and work.

In this article, I’ll look into the reason why you’re sleep deprived and how to sleep through the night tonight.

Why you can’t sleep through the night

The first step to improving anything is getting to the bottom of the root problem. Different studies have shown the reasons why most people cannot sleep well at night.[2] Here are the main ones that the average person faces:

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Stress

If you’ve ever stayed up at night worrying about something, know that it’s a major sleep inhibitor. When you’re feeling stress, your mind and body becomes more activated, making it incredibly difficult to fall asleep. Even when you do manage to sleep, it won’t be deep enough to help you feel rested the next day.

Exposure to blue light before sleep time

We’re exposed to harmful blue light on a daily basis through the use of our digital screens. If you’ve never heard of blue light, it’s part of the visible light spectrum that suppresses melatonin, our sleep hormones. Other harmful effects include digital eye strains and macular cellular damage.

While daytime exposure to blue light is not very harmful, night time exposure tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime. By keeping your brain alert and suppressing melatonin, your mind is unable to shut down and relax before bedtime.

Eating close to bedtime

Eating too late can actually be an issue for many people, especially those who are older than 40. The reason is, eating before laying down increases the chances of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus.

Another reason not to eat too late is sleep quality. Even if you manage to sleep right after eating, it’s likely that you’ll wake up tired. Instead of letting your body rest during sleep, it has to digest the food that was entered before bedtime.

Rule of thumb: eat 3-4 hours before bedtime.

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Medical conditions

In some cases, it could be medical conditions that cause your sleep problems. If you can’t relate yourself to the above reasons or any of these common sleep problem causes, you should visit the doctor.

The vicious sleep cycle

The biggest danger to repeating the bad habits mentioned above is the negative cycle that it can take you through. A bad night’s sleep can affect not only your energy but your willpower and decision making skills.

Here’s an example of a bad sleep pattern:

You get a bad night’s sleep
–> You feel tired and stressful throughout the day.
–> You compensate it with unhealthy habits (for example junk food, skipping exercises, watching Netflix etc.)
–> You can’t sleep well (again) the next night.

    You can imagine what could happen if this cycle repeats over a longer period of time.

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    How to sleep better (throughout the night)

    To help you break the vicious cycle and stop waking up in the middle of the night, I’ll explain to you a list of actionable steps to solve your trouble staying asleep.

    1. Take control over the last 90 minutes of your night

    What you do (or don’t do) before bedtime have significant impact on the quality of your sleep. Many times, it can be the difference between staying up until 4am and sleeping like a baby.

    Here are a few suggestions:

    • Go from light to dark – Darkness stimulates production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Turn off unused light around the house, and think about investing into warm light that you can use in the bedroom before bedtime.
    • Avoid screens (or wear blue light blocking glasses) – Keep the bedroom a technology-free zone as the light from electronic devices can disturb your sleep. If you need to work, wear blue light blocking glasses (also known as computer glasses) throughout or before you sleep to prevent sleep disruption.
    • Find an activity that helps you to wind down  This could be anything that calms you down, and reduces thinking (especially unnecessary stress). Fir example, listening to soothing/good feel music, taking a hot bath, reading or meditating.
    • Keep any electronics you have on the other side of the room or outside the room – One of the most harmful things that can disrupt your sleep is the notifications you get from your smartphones. The simplest way to avoid this is to keep it away from you.
    • Create a bedtime routine – A night routine is a couple of things you do prior to going to bed. By doing these things every night, you’ll have a more restful and high-quality sleep. Learn how to pick up a night routine here: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide to Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

    2. Eat the right nutrients (and avoid the wrong ones)

    What you eat (not just when we eat) plays a critical role in your sleep quality. If you’re ever in doubt of what to eat to improve your sleep, take the following into consideration:

    • Kiwi – This green fruit may be the ultimate pre-bed snack. When volunteers ate two kiwis an hour before hitting the hay, they slept almost a full extra hour. Kiwis are full of vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate—all of which may help you snooze.
    • Soy foods – Foods made with soy such as tofu, miso and edamame, are rich in isoflavones. These compounds increase the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that influences the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
    • Fiber-rich foods – Eating more fiber could be key for better sleep. Eating fiber was associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep—the more you eat, the better you sleep—per a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Fiber prevents blood sugar surges that may lower melatonin. Get a fiber boost from beans, artichokes, bran cereal and quinoa.
    • Salmon – Most fish, especially salmon, halibut and tuna boost vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin— a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.

    3. Adjust your sleep temperature

    Once you’ve gone through the first 2 recommendations, the last step to experiment with is temperature. According to Sleep.org, the ideal temperature for sleep is 60-67 Farenheit. This may be cooler than what most people are used to, but keep in mind that our body temperature changes once we fall asleep.

    Rule of thumb: sleeping in cooler temperature is better for sleep quality than warmer temperature.

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    Find out how to maintain the optimal temperature to sleep better here: How to Sleep Faster with the Best Temperature

    Sleep better form now on

    Congrats on making it to the end of this guide on sleep. If you’re serious about taking the necessary steps in improving your sleep, remember to take it one step at a time.

    I recommend trying just one of the steps mentioned such as taking a hot bath, blocking out blue light at night, or sleeping in cooler temperature. From there, see how it impacts your sleep quality and you can keep doing what works, and throw away what doesn’t.

    As long as you follow these steps cautiously and diligently, I know you’ll see improved results in your sleep!

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

    Reference

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