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Researchers Find that Gardening Is a Natural Antidepressant

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Since our fast-paced modern lifestyles had brought more harm than good, many people decide to turn to Mother Nature and connect with it in order to improve their health and happiness.

Gardening is among the most effective stress-relieving activities, but at the same time, it enhances nutrition and mental health. A recent BBC article says:

“Pilot schemes for general practitioners (GPs) to prescribe gardening are underway, while school gardening projects have been set up to give children a peaceful space to relax in.

There are also community garden schemes where patients at GP practices work together to grow food, while studies have shown that exposure to gardens can have a calming effect in dementia.”

Numerous independent bits of research have identified key environmental triggers for two important chemicals that boost our immune system, enhance our mood, and increase our happiness– serotonin, and dopamine.

Getting your hands dirty in the garden can boost the serotonin levels – contact with soil and a specific soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, stimulates the release of serotonin in our brain and its lack leads to the development of depression.

Researchers have shown that spending time in nature boosts our emotional and mental health, and a survey done by Gardeners’ World magazine in 2013 showed that 80 percent of gardeners are “happy” and “satisfied” with their lives, compared to 67 percent of non-gardeners.

Moreover, CNN Health reported:

“In a study conducted in Norway, people who had been diagnosed with depression, persistent low mood or ‘bipolar II disorder’ spent six hours a week growing flowers and vegetables.

After three months, half of the participants had experienced a measurable improvement in their depression symptoms. What’s more, their mood continued to be better three months after the gardening program ended …

Mycobacterium vaccae, a harmless bacteria commonly found in soil … increase the release and metabolism of serotonin in parts of the brain that control cognitive function and mood — much like serotonin-boosting antidepressant drugs do.”

Furthermore, according to Psychology Today:

“Horticulture is not all sweetness and light: nature has its dark side too. In a similar vein, some of the therapeutic power of gardening is that it allows us to unleash our anger and aggression as well as providing an opportunity to nurture. Why beat pillows with a baseball bat or yell at the cat when you have a hedge to hack? The great thing about destructiveness in the garden is that it’s also connected to renewal and growth – if you don’t cut back the plants, your space will be swamped by them.

In a similar vein, anxious people often feel overwhelmed, and gardening can be a good way of gaining a sense of control. Moreover, whereas trying to control other people is invariably a fruitless exercise, you’re more likely to succeed in controlling your beds and borders, which can make gardening a particularly satisfying experience.”

Gardening is a great way to stay active and prevent obesity, by supporting healthy weight management. Also, fitness scientists claim that exercising outdoors makes the exercise harder, even though you perceive the activity as easier. 

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A Korean study found that the following gardening tasks make an effective moderate-intensity exercise, based on energy expenditure evaluations in children:

  • Harvesting
  • Planting
  • Mulching
  • Sowing seeds
  • Hoeing
  • Watering
  • Mixing growing medium
  • Weeding

On the other hand, raking and digging are considered to be vigorous exercise.

Yet, to avoid injury, make sure you maintain a proper body posture while gardening:

 Maintain a proper spinal alignment for proper weight distribution and absorb shock

 Work at waist height with the elbows bent and the arms at the sides when possible

 Bend the knees and squat or kneel while planting or weeding at ground level

 Keep the tools and objects you need near you to avoid over-reaching

When it comes to the calories burnt while gardening, Nikki Phipps, author of the book, “The Bulb-o-licious Garden,” claims that using a push mower instead of a riding mower can burn up about 300 calories, while activities like weeding, planting, raking, pruning, digging, can burn 200 calories an hour. She says:

“Exercise in the garden gives all major muscle groups a good workout including your legs, arms, buttocks, stomach, neck, and back. Whether it comes in the form of digging up soil, setting plants or carrying water, exercise is taking place.”

For a maximal energy expenditure, use manual tools instead of power tools. Daily Mail maintains that 5 hours spent gardening a week can help one burn 722 calories.

“Over a six-month gardening season that works out at 18,772 calories a year — the equivalent of running nearly seven marathons. And the hobby could help burn a million calories over a lifetime. Just doing half an hour weeding can burn up to 150 calories and tasks that handle heavy electrical equipment such as hedge trimming will give you a good workout burning 400 calories per hour.”

Livestrong.com also reports that the more you weigh and the more vigorous the task, the more calories you burn:

“A person weighing about 125 pounds burns approximately 240 calories an hour doing activities such as raking the lawn, sacking leaves or grass, and planting seedlings or shrubs … Chores that burn approximately 300 calories per hour include digging or spading dirt and laying sod or crushed rock … chopping wood burns 360.”

Despite these benefits, gardening is the best way you can improve your nutrition and enjoy your own organic, high-quality, pesticide-free foods.

If you are new to gardening, start growing sprouts, as they are easy to grow, but the most nutritious. When sprouted, the nutritional value of seeds grows, and their nutrients are more bioavailable.

If you are willing to try, you can also find the following applications helpful, Eden Garden Designer, Essential Garden Guide, Foolproof Plants for Small Gardens, and Perennial Match.

Gardening is definitely a lot more affordable than any other forms of therapy. Moreover, antidepressants come with a set of severe side-effects that endanger our health in numerous ways.

So, all you need to do is to decide and start planting and gardening, as a way to reconnect with Nature and reap all the benefits it offers to us.

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