Gardening: 7 Unexpected Benefits

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I’ll admit it.

I’m more of an aspirational gardener than an actual one.

We plant tons of flowers every spring and enjoy their beauty for months, but I don’t yet have a vegetable garden.  Our shady yard doesn’t lend itself well to vegetables, so until I’m willing to do something about that, we’ll have to suffice with flowers, and with fresh produce from the Farmer’s Market.

 But if you’ve been considering starting a garden, there may be benefits to doing so that you’ve never considered—mind, body, and soul. 

 1. The freshest produce. I know, not unexpected, but it had to make the list.  We had a massive garden when I was a child, and if you have ever tasted peas picked straight from the vine, or baby potatoes that you just dug, you will understand what fresh produce really is.  Sweet. Tender. Heaven.  Even the most ardent non-veg person might be swayed by this just-harvested goodness!

 2. Moderate Exercise.  Now, I’m not talking about standing the yard with the hose on.  But if you’re pulling weeds, hoeing, or harvesting, you’re getting decent exercise.  Getting up and down to pick green beans looks a lot like squats at the gym, and raking the soil to prep it for planting can be great work for your deltoids and trapezoids.  Plus, the view is so much better than the other dudes at the gym!  Added bonus: if you switch off both right and left hands, you can increase your dexterity and fine motor skills!

 3. Healthy dirt.  Yes, dirt.  There are microorganisms in the soil that are truly good for you.  These little guys can help with asthma and with immune deficiencies.  And it’s possible that they can alleviate depression.  So the evidence is there that being outside with your hands in the dirt is a healthy place to be.  Skip the manicures for a while and get dirty!

 4.  Soaking up the sun.  Now, you know how I feel about sunbathing (DON’T.).  But being outside for short bursts with unprotected skin—on something other than your face—gives you the chance to soak up some all-important Vitamin D.  This is the vitamin that improves your immune system and helps fight off colds.  Yes, you can get Vitamin D in fortified milk and other supplements, but there’s no better source than 15 minutes of sunshine.  For the safest results, try to get out first thing in the morning and just before sunset.  You’ll get all of the Vitamin D you need with less risk of sun damage.

 5.  A Break from Technology. This one is pretty simple.  If you’re on your knees in the garden, you aren’t looking at your phone. And let’s be honest, people.  No one wants to see multiple selfies of you with a rake.  So leave the technology in the house, put on your sunglasses, and get outside to some time away from the chatter and distractions.  Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

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 6.  Natural Antidepressant.  It shouldn’t come as any surprise that gardening can be an effective antidepressant.  Being out in the sunshine and absorbing Vitamin D is a mood lifter.  Getting moderate exercise releases endorphins and helps you sleep better.  Accomplishing something like planting or weeding can improve self-esteem.  And enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of your garden can positively change your outlook.  The key here is to actually take time and enjoy your garden, rather than trudging through the tasks associated with its care. 

7.  Accommodating Options.  One of the lovely things about gardening is that you can modify your garden to accommodate any injuries or limitations you might have.  Raised beds are not only pretty, but you can build them high enough to save your knees or back from undue stress and pain.  And there are numerous hand-held garden tools that can make digging less painful for arthritic hands and wrists.  I personally love my tools with the gel handles—I can dig with them longer and more comfortably than traditional wood-handled tools.  

 There will come a time when we pull out the kids’ swing set and put in a raised garden in this one sunny patch in our yard.  I’m looking forward to growing more herbs than I currently do, along with some peppers and greens.  Until then, I’ll be happily digging away in my flower beds and enjoying the sunshine.

 Becky Eason, PhD, is an Associate Certified Coach and Certified Leadership Coach.  She would love to come with you on your journey for wellness and a happy heart.  Learn more on her website: wequestforwellness.com

Balance: Perspectives from the Thought Leaders Collaborative