Gardening for Mental Health |



There is overwhelming evidence that being near plants, and especially gardens, has a positive impact on mental health. Richard Thompson suggests, in an article published by the Royal College of Physicians, that the use of therapeutic gardens could reduce the pressure on the National Health Service in England. Science shows my plants are helping me and it can even take the strain off the healthcare industry. In my opinion, this should allow gardeners to benefit from a reduction on their health insurance premiums!

There is, however, a serious side to this; we live in difficult times, times when we are often isolated and afraid. Family reunions are postponed again. Hospitals are overloaded again. The stress we experience is itself part of the health risk we face. We need to find ways to manage stress and focus in order to foster a greater sense of well-being that research shows will actually boost your immune system. One of the best ways to do this is gardening. Gardening keeps you busy and outdoors. The sun itself heals. In a Norwegian study, it was shown that 30 minutes of sunlight can produce 5 times the daily requirement for vitamin D. Vitamin D plays a major role in the production of serotonin, the chemical in the brain that produces happiness. This is one of the benefits of weeding that most people never consider.

However, not all of us have the space or time for a garden. Just walking in a garden and writing down your thoughts has been shown to reduce depression in older people. Being surrounded by plants inside and out greatly improves your mood.

Living in Tuolumne County, we are doubly lucky as it is only a short drive from the heart of some of the most beautiful forests in the world. Surrounding yourself with nature has been used “as an active component in a therapeutic intervention for clinical depression,” says a Texas A&M article. The Japanese call it “shinrin-yokuWhich can be translated as “forest bath”. Much research is underway to show the benefits of this immersion in nature.

Frankly, this is nothing new. Florence Nightingale, the nurses’ mother, said the hardest thing for a patient was and still is “not being able to see out the window, and the knots in the wood being the only sight. I will never forget the delight of fever patients at a bouquet of brightly colored flowers. She encouraged hospitals to create healing gardens as places where patients would have a natural space to help with healing. She said “People say the effect is only on the mind. It is not such a thing. The effect is also on the body.

The Master Gardeners promote health and beauty to serve all around us, an important task in these difficult times.

Jim Bliss is a Master Gardener at the University of California Tuolumne County Cooperative Extension.

The UCCE master gardeners in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties can answer questions about home gardening. Call 209-533-5912 or complete our easy-to-use problem questionnaire here. Visit our website here. You can also find us on Facebook.



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