We will mostly all agree that gardening is a great way to get some exercise, stretch some muscles, and enjoy some fresh air healthy produce, but believe it or not, gardening can do much more for us than just that.
Gardening has been linked to improved mental health. It can be calming and relaxing, allowing the brain to rest and recuperate. Studies have been made that show an ability to calm dementia patients and those suffering from Alzheimer disease. Patients with these issues have shown a marked decrease in agitation and anxiety while gardening with a lingering effect for some time afterwards.
Many people relate gardening to a time in their lives when they were with their parents and even grandparents, when things made sense and were safe and familiar. Gardening is an activity that they relate to enjoyment. Patients who have been subjected to the impairments of dementia and dementia related illnesses, whose brains are impaired in some way or means tend to go back to basic instincts, childhood memories and find comfort there in those familiar and safe environments of the garden.
In a report made by CNN, “People in their 60’s and 70’s that were studied over the past 16 years showed a 36% and 49%, respectively, lower risk of developing dementia and dementia-related illnesses than their non-gardening counterparts.
Gardening has been shown to be a better stress reliever than reading. In a study conducted around 2014, one group of people were asked to participate in gardening activities for 30 minutes a day, while the other group was asked to read 30 minutes a day. The findings and conclusions were that the gardeners showed a marked improvement in overall mood than the readers, a much-decreased level of stress than the readers, and much lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their system than the non-gardening readers. (not sure if this would include reading about gardening or leafing through seed catalogs.)
Grandma said, “Every kid should eat a peck of dirt before they start school.” Now I am not sure if this prescription is accurate (2 gallons of soil) but the idea is gaining exposure to the beneficial microbes that the soils provides and can benefit the gut chemistry in all of us.
The beneficial microbe mentioned is Mycobacterium Vaccae (M.V..) M.V. is a bacterium that is found in healthy soil and is both inhaled and ingested while gardening. This bacterium is said to provide the same effects on the neurons of the brain as the prescription drug Prozac. M.V. stimulates serotonin production in the brain and causes a feel-good reaction in us. The garden can really be your “happy place!” Studies have shown that when interviewing gardeners and non-gardeners, that 80% of gardeners feel happy compared to only 67% of our non-gardening counterparts.
Not to sound like an old hippy, which technically I could be, the thought of all of this is not new to me. I remember a time when we talked of “Grounding,” in fact a movie was produced with that same title and dealt with this very topic in the early 70’s. Grounding or bonding with the earth has many benefits to our well-being and all that we really need to do is “Keep Our Fingers Dirty!” or touch the earth. Walking barefoot was said to transfer free electrons that are found in the earth structure (soils do have electrical charges) and these electrons then enter our bodies through out feet and then spread into our tissues. This action of grounding with the earth has been said to relieve pain, improve sleep health, reduce inflammation and provide an overall sense of well-being.
This may seem a bit out of here for some of you, but hey, what’s the harm, why not try at least going barefoot and recharge your systems.
Well, I challenge you to think about just how beneficial gardening can be beyond just healthy foods, nutrient rich produce, and try to engage in the mind boosting activities and the beneficial microbes that are found in our gardens.
Oh yeah, Keep Those Fingers Dirty!
Brian L. Fuder is a certified Square-Foot Gardening Instructor who builds gardens that are wheelchair-accessible and mobility-issue friendly. His business, Square Foot Gardening for the Red River Valley, is an approved vendor of products for the Square Foot Gardening Foundation. Follow Brian’s activities on Facebook and at Semper Fi Fund. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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