“Nature itself is the best physician.”
Gardening is one of the most popular ways in which people interact with nature with an estimated 1 in 3 U.S. adults engaging in gardening on a regular basis.
Is gardening or spending time in nature a part of your life?
Research suggests that gardening and other activities involving nature can be beneficial to our mental health and well-being. A 2016 meta-analysis or summary of recent research on the health benefits of gardening found that participation in gardening activities reduced the severity of depressed mood and anxiety, reduced stress, and enhanced overall quality of life. Likewise, a more recent 2020 meta-analysis of 77 studies, including both the act of gardening as well as viewing gardens, again demonstrated links between gardening and improved mental health.
Finding time and space for gardening is not always easy. However, another significant research finding was the cumulative positive effect on mental health even from repeated short-term engagement in gardening activities. Therefore, having even a small space and a brief period for regular gardening or growing plants can be beneficial.
If gardening is difficult or limited by time and space, simply taking a walk or finding other ways of spending time in nature is beneficial. For example, a 2012 study examined how walking in nature may be beneficial for individuals with major depressive disorder. In this study participants exhibited significant increases in memory span and mood after a nature walk, extending earlier work demonstrating the cognitive and affective benefits of interacting with nature.
Lastly, research continues to explore the impact of simply having more green spaces in our environment. For example, a 2014 study found that higher levels of neighborhood green space are associated with significantly lower levels of symptomology for depression, anxiety, and stress, after controlling for a wide range of confounding factors.
Whether through gardening, nature walks, or even just spending time in green spaces, connecting with nature is an effective way to promote your mental health and well-being. How might you bring more nature into your life?
Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.
Visit us at lindquistpsych.com
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Berman, M. G., Kross, E., Krpan, K. M., Askren, M. K., Burson, A., Deldin, P. J., Kaplan, S., Sherdell, L., Gotlib, I. H., & Jonides, J. (2012). Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression. Journal of affective disorders, 140(3), 300–305. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2012.03.01
Beyer, K. M., Kaltenbach, A., Szabo, A., Bogar, S., Nieto, F. J., & Malecki, K. M. (2014). Exposure to neighborhood green space and mental health: evidence from the survey of the health of Wisconsin. International journal of environmental research and public health, 11(3), 3453–3472. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph110303453
Howarth, M., Brettle, A., Hardman, M., & Maden, M. (2020). What is the evidence for the impact of gardens and gardening on health and well-being: a scoping review and evidence-based logic model to guide healthcare strategy decision making on the use of gardening approaches as a social prescription. BMJ open, 10(7), e036923. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-036923
Soga, M., Gaston, K. J., & Yamaura, Y. (2016). Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis. Preventive medicine reports, 5, 92–99. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmedr.2016.11.007