“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.”
DO YOU HAVE STRESS?
Are you struggling with overwork and overweight?
Are you at risk for diabetes, heart disease, and exhaustion?
Do you find yourself feeling depressed, discouraged, or just plain burned out?
Are you overstretched and overbooked and wishing for time to recharge and regenerate?
There are a number of well-known and highly promoted stress-reducing therapies, including exercises, relaxation techniques, lifestyle changes, and counseling. However, one calming and fun alternative that has been a wellkept secret, receiving little promotion, is gardening.
Gardening offers important benefits—whether your garden is a small variety of herbs in a box on your patio, a backyard vegetable garden, or a plot in a community garden.
Ellen White wrote years ago about the life-giving benefits of being exposed to sunshine, getting fresh air, and tending to the growing things of nature. It is no coincidence that gardens aimed at interactive health and healing are becoming more the norm in schools, prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, and centers for the homeless or at-risk youth.
It turns out that the deep sense of well-being one can get from planting, watering, weeding, pruning, and harvesting isn’t all in a person’s head—although the head certainly benefits too! Here are some amazing benefits of gardening.
1. Gardening is a decompressor.
In a Dutch study, two groups of people were asked to complete a highly stressful project. Following this, one group was taken outside to participate in gardening for 30 minutes. The other group was to sit and read quietly for the same 30 minutes.
The gardening group not only reported improved moods but evidenced measurably lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone that, when chronically elevated, can be linked to lower immune function, obesity, memory and learning problems, and heart disease. Ellen White observed that when we are surrounded by the beautiful and peaceful things of nature, “relief will come to body and mind” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 265).
2. Gardening improves heart health.
Active gardening can be classified as moderate-intensity exercise. Digging, raking, lifting, and planting all contribute to a total body workout, burning up to 330 calories during one hour of active gardening. It provides rewarding motivation—unlike the treadmill, which can be compared to a hamster on a wheel.
Most gardening is done during daylight hours, in the sunshine and fresh air. Sunlight exposure promotes the making of vitamin D within the body, an important protective agent against heart disease, osteoporosis, and several cancers. However, make sure not to expose the skin excessively to sunshine, which can result in sunburn damage and the risk of skin cancer over time.
3. Gardening lowers blood pressure.
The stress-reducing benefits of gardening can also have a positive effect on blood pressure, aiding in the stabilizing and lowering of it. This especially benefits those who struggle with hypertension
4. Gardening provides an emotional lift.
Ask anyone who is involved in gardening if they find such an activity enjoyable, and you will see their eyes light up. You are sure to be regaled with stories of their gardening exploits.
Horticultural therapy is a relatively new field of study describing the benefits to anyone (especially patients with depression and other mental illnesses) who engages in a combination of physical activity, awareness of natural surroundings, cognitive stimulation, and satisfaction in productive work. The more variety in the garden—such as the presence of food-producing plants, scented and colorful flowers, and a variety of shrubs and trees—the more nourishment to the senses.
Planting and watching a garden grow can fill a person with satisfaction and pride. It truly can become an enjoyable lifetime hobby, with the added bonus of positive mental, physical, and even spiritual benefits. The beauty and wonder of nature calls for a response of amazement at the creative power and design of our heavenly Father. Every bud and flower is an expression of His love and care for His children.
5. Gardening encourages improved eating habits.
People who grow their own fruit and vegetables tend to eat more healthfully. Produce from a home garden is usually free from harmful pesticides and is therefore a safer product. Besides that, vegetables and fruit picked fresh just taste better.
Children who garden generally have a better attitude toward healthful eating and find eating produce they grew themselves most enjoyable. Home gardeners also tend to be more adventurous about giving new foods a try.
HOW TO GET STARTED
You don’t need a degree in horticulture, a big backyard, or even a green thumb in order to begin gardening. If space is limited, try gardening in containers. You can grow cherry tomatoes in nothing more than a five-gallon bucket or pot that has some holes in the bottom.
Plant some herbs in an attractive container on your porch or kitchen windowsill. The Web is an available information source, as is your local bookstore. For some really good gardening tips, just start up a conversation with one of your gardening friends, or with someone you may meet in a garden-supply store. Most will happily share their gardening knowledge.