Could there be a connection between gardening and mental health? Read on to learn the brain benefits of plants and gardening outdoors — whether in your own garden or in a community allotment.

Outdoor Physical Activity: Can It Help To Improve Your Mood?

Many people swear that being in the outdoors helps their mood to thrive. But is this a real thing? And, if it is, why does it work so effectively?

fresh air | Constellation Nutrition

At some stage in your childhood you were probably instructed by your parents to get outside for some sunlight and fresh air.

Your parents were actually onto something. Fresh air and sunlight have been shown to have huge mood-supporting benefits. This is due to a few reasons:

  • Sunlight leads to the creation of vitamin D in the body. Low levels of vitamin D are linked to low moods.
  • Fresh air may give you a burst of renewed energy — especially cool air.
  • Breathing in fresh air may support your immune system.1-3

Can Gardening Support Your Mental Health?

There are so many mood-boosting activities that you can do outdoors, and they don’t need to be high energy. Gardening is an old favorite — and for good reason. Plenty of studies have shown that getting out into the garden may do wonders for your mood and well-being.

Why gardening, specifically?

Well, aside from the fresh air and sunlight, gardening offers a few other key benefits:

vegetable garden | Constellation Nutrition

  1. One particular study showed that simply viewing a green space may help you to relax and feel at ease. It also showed that the physical activity that comes with gardening may also support your emotional well being.
  2. It can be a great feeling to know that you’re responsible for those fruits and vegetables growing. Nourishing your body with foods from the earth may provide a greater connection to the earth, and therefore one’s place in it.
  3. Many people get a sense of nurturing, when their working the soil and tending to their plant “babies” daily. This sense of responsibility may provide a very rewarding sense of worth.
  4. Gardening keeps you present in the “now.” So many of us are distracted by phones, or TV — but when you’re gardening, you’re focused 100% on this one single activity. And being present may be a great way to take care of your mental health, as you’re not worrying about the past or the future.4,5

Some Further Green Therapy Studies

A study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology assessed a group of participants working on computer tasks and another group working with indoor plants, then switched them. The researchers found that when participants were working with the plants, they felt far more relaxed, even though they were still indoors.6

Another study showed that gardening could actually decrease cortisol levels (the stress hormone). Participants’ stress levels decreased significantly, and they had a more positive mood after gardening.7

Gardening And Mental Health: Flowers, Succulents, Fruits, And Veggies That Require Less Care

Thinking about starting your own garden? You might consider starting with some plants that relatively low maintenance until you develop that “green thumb.”

gardening | Constellation Nutrition

Here are some beautiful floral options to begin with:
  • Petunias
  • Geraniums
  • Weigela
  • Daylilies
  • Sunflowers
  • Zinnias
  • Marigolds
  • Sweet peas
  • Snapdragons
  • Lavender8,9

Or if you’d like to grow your own food:

  • Tomatoes
  • Radishes
  • Zucchinis
  • Beans
  • Potatoes
  • Peas
  • Cucumbers
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Garlic10,11

Feeling Too Much Stress And Anxiety? Know When To See A Doctor Or Mental Health Professional

tree hugging | Constellation Nutrition

While gardening and spending time outdoors may have a positive impact on mood, sometimes we need a little something more in times of stress or difficult situations. If you notice your stress levels or mood taking a toll on your quality of life, it’s important to talk to your doctor, or a mental health professional.

They may have other recommendations to improve your mood and well being. In the meantime you might see if spending a little more time outdoors or nurturing a garden may help you to relax and feel at peace.