Health Lessons from the Garden – Part 2: Proven Stress Relief

For those of us who like to get in the garden, you have probably found yourself, at one time or another, so deeply immersed in an activity that you’ve lost all sense of time- I love that feeling! Many gardeners call that “the zone” and although I’m ‘working’ in the garden, I feel incredible peace and joy in that time of simple focus, which is a lot the feeling you get when playing music or painting or drawing- everything else gets tuned-out.

Well, as it happens, it’s not just us gardeners feeling spacey… as of 2011 there has been evidence showing that gardening can provide significant relief from acute stress.

A study in the Netherlands tested 30 allotment (community garden) gardeners and their salivary cortisol levels and moods were repeatedly measured (cortisol is a hormone found naturally in your body that is released as a response to stress).

First, they had the gardeners perform a Stroop test- a popular neuropsychological test that looks into a person’s psychological capacities- and then assigned the gardeners to 30 minutes of either outdoor gardening or light indoor reading at their own garden plot.

Woman_at_allotment_garden

What they found was that gardening and reading both led to decreases in cortisol, but gardening resulted in a significant decrease. Unlike the reading group, where peoples’ moods continued to decrease over the 30 minutes of light reading, the gardeners’ positive moods were all fully restored after the 30 minutes of gardening activity! 

I’d say those are great results for 30 minutes of work in the garden!

I’m not sure if there are yet proven links between stress levels and people developing dementia, but I want to mention this other significant study. If you are fifty plus and have access to a balcony or garden, please take note. A study was completed over a 16 year period following women and men in their sixties and seventies. Even when a range of other health factors were taken into account, the study found that people who gardened regularly had a 36% lower risk of developing dementia than non-gardeners.

Another great result! Let’s remember that taking quiet time for ourselves to breathe and to meditate, is not just about recovering from the stress we may feel in the moment- it has real and significant health benefits over the short and long term. Now garden-in-lovers, all you need to do is practice what you know : )

Stay tuned for our January Newsletter. If you haven’t signed up yet for our newsletter, you won’t want to miss this one- it’s packed with great ideas for your garden plan this year.

Happy garden planning everyone!

Health Lessons from the Garden – Part 2: Proven Stress Relief