The positive psychological effects of gardening may be due to the physical exercise of gardening, the community nature of gardening, the nutrition in home-grown vegetables, a sense of empowerment and financial gain from growing your own food, or benefits from the exposure to sunlight.
You probably already know this is true–spending time in nature is good for us. Even if you are out for a stroll in a city garden, you may notice an increase in your mood and sense of resilience. Your heart rate may slow, and you may feel more present in the moment.
Maybe you are growing your own garden. Numerous studies have shown that gardening helps alleviate depression and anxiety, and increases life satisfaction and quality of life.
This appears to be true across many social groups, including high- and low-income groups, urban and suburban dwellers, men and women, and a variety of age groups.
Studies have been performed in a variety of countries as well, with similar results.
If you are thinking about starting up a little garden plot of your own, you may be thrilled to hear that it may be as good for your mood as it is for your flowers and vegetables.
Read on for more information about gardens and happiness.
Does Gardening Make People Happy?
You may sense this is true from your own experience. Maybe you are a home gardener yourself, and you notice a sense of joy when you are out in your garden.
Or maybe you know others in your community who thrive on their gardening time and you see the positive benefits in them.
It isn’t just anecdotal that gardening makes people happy.
Studies in recent years have shown that gardening has a wide variety of benefits, including reducing depression, anxiety, and body-mass index, while at the same time increasing life satisfaction, cognitive function, energy, self-esteem, and a sense of community.
Why Does Gardening Make People Happy?
The happiness experienced by gardeners seems to derive from a variety of factors.
Being in Nature
Studies suggest that being in nature may have a positive effect on mood and wellbeing, whether you are gardening or not. For example, time spent in nature can increase optimism and energy, while at the same time making people more relaxed.
Visiting any beautiful urban park could probably give us evidence of this. Whether or not you are gardening, being around nature may boost your mood.
Part of the benefits of gardening are certainly due to the physical activity it requires. Walking, lifting, digging, hauling–all of these are key parts of gardening. Perhaps the most important aspect is that it is an active hobby–rather than a sedentary one.
Gardening has been shown to be good for your heart due to the physical activity. Those who get regular physical activity have been shown to have better emotional states–more happiness.
Gardening also builds muscle tone, which can improve confidence and reduce pain and the incidence of injury.
Building a Sense of Community
In the case of urban gardening or allotment gardening (where participants are given a plot in a larger garden), gardens can build a sense of community. Urban gardens especially have proven to bring people together for a common goal, which builds a strong sense of community.
However, it has been shown in some studies that gardening improves mood whether you are doing it alone or in a group or shared setting. Even lone gardeners experience the happiness benefit.
Gardening has also been shown to be good for families. It is a fun bonding activity and gives kids a good sense of responsibility and self-esteem. Plus, it may be the case that exposure to dirt may reduce the incidence of allergies and autoimmune diseases in children.
Providing Healthy Food
During the pandemic, many home gardens got started to ensure access to healthy, local food, and to save trips to the grocery store as well as save money.
Growing your own food allows you to know exactly what you are eating and where it came from. You will not have to wonder what types of pesticides have been used or whether it is local or organic.
In some urban communities where access to fresh fruits and vegetables is limited, urban gardens can provide access to fresh, healthy food–certainly something to be happy about.
Some studies show that gardeners who grow vegetables have even greater happiness levels linked to gardening than those who just grow ornamental plants.
Exposure to Sunlight
Getting out in the sun may boost serotonin levels–one of the chemicals linked to happiness.
Gardening also increases your levels of Vitamin D, which is important to immune function and bone strength.
Obviously, a little sunlight is good for you, but don’t forget to wear your sunscreen and an adequate hat when gardening to avoid the ill-effects of too much sun.
Doing Good for the Environment
People who garden may feel empowered by their efforts to improve the environment. Growing your own vegetables means less pesticide, along with no fossil fuels used in shipping.
Growing native plants is also good for pollinators like bees, wasps, and flies, which leads to more plants flourishing in your community.
You may not need studies to tell you that spending time in the natural world is good for you. You may already stroll through your local gardens on the regular as a way to reduce stress and improve your quality of life.
Maybe you know people who have started “forest bathing” for its positive effects.
Whether you enjoy gardens that are the fruits of others’ labor, or you are growing your own, studies continue to show the link between nature and gardening and happiness.
Or, if you are looking for a new way to add a little joy, consider spending some time with plants. Maybe even join a community garden, get a plot, or dig up a corner of your yard. Even just a little gardening will give you the happiness benefit.