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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

Gardening as a form of therapy

Many people do not think of gardening as anything more than a hobby that allows one to spend time immersed in and surrounded by nature. It sounds lovely even put like that, but more and more, gardening is found to be so much more, for so many people.

As it turns out, there is a lot to be said about the power of spending time with one’s hands digging around in the soil, watering their plants, and working to keep their garden healthy and thriving. While not everyone likes to garden, there are many, many people who find it to be not only rewarding, but calming. Now considered one of the leading and most influential forms of green therapy, gardening is being found time and again to be an incredible therapeutic activity.

There is a growing movement that promotes gardening as a positive reinforcement and ongoing therapy for people suffering with mental health strains. There are many benefits to gardening, and all of them carry their own advantages and insights into how the human mind and body acts and responds to being immersed in the surrounding natural world.

Gardening is considered to be a great therapy for those who are suffering from mental health struggles. In recent years, there has been – and continues to be – a growing body of research and studies that adhere to the truth that gardening does, in many cases, help struggling individuals to take on a healthy hobby that doubles as a therapeutic movement.

Gardening is all about concentrating on and nurturing the growth of another living organism. There is great reward in gardening because not only does it get you out of your head and into the activity, but you are often (if not always) rewarded with the continuous development and ongoing growth of the garden that you have nurtured and brought to life in front of you. This is especially true if you are growing fruits, herbs, and vegetables, because you get to literally eat the fruits of your labour. In this way, there is perhaps no better form of green therapy than gardening, to focus on and enjoy from the onset.

Taking on gardening as a therapeutic hobby does not have to mean going all out with it, either. Whether you are simply planting and nurturing to watch it grow naturally, or spending your free time researching the benefits of soil inoculants and mixing your own manure for your garden, the point is the same: the consistent actions of gardening are so effective because they encourage, even demand, that the gardener focuses intently on the job at hand. Failure to do so will often (if not always) result in plants suffering greatly, or even dying.

There is a sense of responsibility that is enlivened by the enjoyment of watching something you worked so hard to bring to life, flourish and thrive. And while some people would argue that gardening is not a genuine form of therapy, they would only need to look at the benefits it has laid out for those who have thrown themselves into gardening and loved it, to know that for some people, it does indeed work wonders.

In fact, Japanese researchers did a study and found that spending just half an hour immersed in the natural world (think a forest, or in the ocean) lowers cortisol levels and improves blood pressure and heart rate. And similarly, they conducted another study that showed that just half an hour of gardening can lower a participant’s cortisol levels and boost their mood. What this means, at the end of the day, is that gardening is a great way to focus on something beautiful and calming, while also encouraging positive mindset and physical activity.

If nothing else, gardening gives gardeners the chance to flourish and thrive in their own time, in as natural a way as possible. Whereas other, more medically-inclined therapies are often laced with prescription medications and stress-induced appointments, gardening is a holistic approach. And while it will not always work in all cases, the simple fact is that it has proven time and again that it can and does work for many people. So, the movement continues to bloom and grow, with no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Gardening is not an activity that many people consider further than its position of being an enjoyable past time. And of course, it is precisely this. But more than that, gardening is being found more and more lately to be a leading form of green therapy. People that are struggling with their mental health (or their physical health, for that matter) are using gardening as a means to give their minds and bodies something positive and natural to do – and it is working absolute wonders.

There is something incredibly relaxing about immersing oneself into the activity of gardening; through gardening there is a distinct connection to the natural world that puts you in that world for the duration of time that you spend dedicated to the cause. Gardening is fast becoming a popular therapy for those struggling mentally, and while it will not cure the mental health epidemic entirely, it is encouraging and hopeful to see that it is working its magic and helping so many affected individuals, on such an ongoing basis. Gardening is a fun hobby, and now it is a genuinely effective green therapy as well.

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