The Secret [of the] Garden

Be it just some pots on a ledge, a kitchen garden, a backyard or a community one – getting your hands dirty is not just good for your kitchen, pocket and diet but also for your mind, body and soul. The benefits of gardening are plenty and frankly, there are some life lessons you can learn along the way too. Gardening is good for you because it makes you healthy, cheers you up and of course, fills your kitchen table with yummy vegetables and fruits bursting with the right amounts of nutrients… Need another reason? Well, you also get to reap what you sowed, and the buzz of satisfaction you get from being a ‘grower’ is simply incomparable. So here’s to getting dirty…

Fitness Benefits

Gardening is a great exercise and one good way to reach your physical exercise goals. During gardening, you tend to use a wide variety of body movements. Squatting, stretching, digging, raking, lifting, and walking are a just a few of the movements you tend to do in a garden even without realizing it. Your muscles may protest a day later, but you will have ended up burning last night’s southern fried chicken or pepperoni pizza away. Plus, gardening will make you sweat, and sweating is a good way to shove those toxins out for good through your pores.

Another advantage is that you do not watch the clock while doing yard work, unlike in a gym – thus getting more exercise in the bargain. Sure, your muscles will scream, but once you get down and dirty in your yard, you are likely to emerge only once you’ve finished all that you wanted to do.  

Last but not least, it’s tiring but fulfilling work and leaves you with a wonderful high. Gardening is a demanding physical workout and will trick your brain into dampening the stress hormone (cortisol) and releasing the happy hormones (endorphins). Ergo, a happy and relaxed, if somewhat tired, you.

Health Gains

A great workout apart, there are also many health benefits of gardening. If you catch the early morning sun rays while digging, your bones will make some vitamin D which aids in more than just bone health – it keeps your heart healthy, your arteries clear and reduces the risk of many cancers.

Another great benefit of gardening is that since it involves plenty of hand work, it aids in maintaining manual dexterity, particularly if you are advancing in years. Gardening is good for people suffering from any motor disorders too, as it can help in improving motor coordination.

A fringe and rather surprising health benefit of gardening comes from the soil bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae or M. vaccae. How it works exactly is a bit of a mystery, but this bacterium aids the immune system in resisting allergies and helps the brain be happier. This is also the bacteria responsible for the unique scent called geosmin, which is the rather uplifting earthy tang of rain falling on parched soil, and can put us in a happy mood anytime.

Mental Health Advantages

There’s the obvious feel-good factor that comes in with gardening, as with any exercise, due to the release of the happy hormones known as endorphins. But more than that, gardening decreases the levels of stress hormone cortisol and makes you happier. Other studies have also pointed out to a marked reduction in dementia in elderly patients – one reason why horticultural therapy is actively being promoted as a prescription for many mental and physiological health problems including depression, mood swings and insomnia. Basically, if it makes you feel good about yourself, then it’s excellent therapy and being around greenery is advisable for anyone looking to cheer up a bit.

The dietary benefits

Anything you grow in your garden -- especially if you try and grow as organically as possible – is going to be a lot healthier, nutritive and far more fulfilling than the most exotic store-bought ingredients. To have nurtured something with your hands and then to reap the fruits (or vegetables) of it is a high that nothing else can give.

We humans often have a need in us to create; why not create a beautiful garden to get multiple benefits – physical, physiological, mental, dietary and to top it, food for the soul…

Tell us about your gardening story and how it helped you in the comments section below…