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These are tough times, and I—much like everybody else—have been trying to find a way to cope with this “new normal” and the unsavoury feelings it’s bringing up. Cooking, working out, art therapy… these past few months have given me ample opportunities to try them all. But do you what worked best for me? Gardening!
You see, my parents have been building a home garden for years now, and I never could understand why. But during this lockdown when I was forced to help them out in their endeavours, I started noticing a change in myself that I never expected. I felt happier and calm; and even when everything around me was falling apart, I found a purpose—something to look forward to.
To understand why gardening made me feel so calm and contended, I contacted Dr Bhavna Barmi, a renowned Delhi-based clinical psychologist. This is what she had to say:
Plants can reflect our lives in many ways and help us acclimate during difficult times. It is observed that there is a correlation between plants and mental health, including aiding the healing process.
But this is just scratching the surface. Gardening, in fact, can do a lot more. Here are six science-backed benefits that this activity has for your mental health:
1. Gardening legit can reduce your stress levels
According to a study published in a 2013-edition of Mental Health Review Journal, getting engaged in various gardening activities reduces the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. “When you take time to smell the fragrance of a rose or any other flower for that matter, your cortisol levels drop,” adds Dr Barmi.
2. It puts you in control
Nothing in the world RN is in our control, but what we do in our gardens can be. Having control and certainty about something always puts us in a better state of mind. So, go on and arrange your pots and plants just the way you like them.
3. Hell, the soil has antidepressant properties:
If you are worried about ruining your manicure while gardening, then don’t be. Because pathogens found in the soil act can actually work as antidepressants and uplift your mood. A bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae in soil can trigger the release of serotonin aka the happy hormone. Dr Barmi also adds that gardening helps us by reminding us of our connection to nature, and helps us focus on the bigger picture, which alleviates symptoms of depression.
4. It gives us a sense of responsibility and purpose
“When you take care of plants and watch them grow, you observe a transformation. You gain an understanding of their transformation from sapling to a plant which is one way to gain a sense of self-worth regardless of social pressure. It helps cultivate confidence and develop a positive outlook,” explains Dr Barmi.
5. Gardening is also a great way to exercise
Gardening is a whole-body workout that includes elements of walking, stretching, and weight lifting. You can burn up to 300 calories in an hour by doing just basic gardening work like lifting pots and digging soil. For the uninitiated, any and all types of workouts release endorphins in the body, which relieve stress and makes us happy.
6. Spending more time in nature helps our body relax
Dr Barmi asserts that being surrounded by plants helps lower blood pressure, increases higher pain tolerance, reduces anxiety, and relieves fatigue. Not to mention that looking at plants and flowers is a peaceful activity free of worries or conflict. Greenery helps create a soothing environment and encourages living in the present moment and engages the senses.
7. Don’t have the space for a proper garden?
Fret not! Try your hands at indoor gardening. Planting indoor plants in your room can add positivity to your place and improve the air quality. You can start with easy-to-tend plants like snake plant, aloe vera, spider plant, cactus, peace lily, and ferns.
Apart from mental health benefits, gardening can also boost your vitamin D levels by pushing you outdoors, and increase your muscle strength. Now that you know why I engage in gardening every day, do let me know if this something you are likely to try in the comments below.