How Gardening Can Help Reduce Stress
Gardening is a rewarding activity that doesn’t require a ton of money to get started. Just a handful of seeds and a trowel can help you while away countless hours in nature and simultaneously breathe new life into your surrounding landscape.
Having a beautiful yard is far from the only benefit of gardening. Thanks to dozens of studies in recent years, the effects of gardening have become more understood and there is nothing but benefits to be gained.
Theresa Scott at the University of Queensland conducted a study in 2014 that found that contact with nature is a vital component of our wellbeing. Gardening at home has been shown to have therapeutic benefits not just in wellbeing, but as an effective tool in battling depression. Another group of researchers studied how gardening had a positive effect on modulating cortisol levels in people struggling from substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression among veterans.
Getting Started with Gardening
What if you’ve never had your own garden before and are looking to get started? It should be said that gardening isn’t a cure-all for mental health issues; if you are struggling with severe mental health problems a professional is what you should be seeking out. But if you are looking for a boost that some extra time in the sun will bring and to add some color in your yard, here are some helpful times that will get you started.
You can get your own garden started with just a few dollars and some fresh dirt. Start by setting a boundary for your garden, which will vary in size depending on the size of the yard you have available to you. A six-foot-by-six-foot area is a great place to start that won’t be overwhelming for a beginner.
You will want to start by measuring the area, then placing logs, stones, cinder blocks, or 2x6s around the perimeter. This will be the boundary for your garden that will help make sure your seeds aren’t stepped on and that you know where to work.
Next, you will want to use a hoe to soften the dirt, going about six inches deep all across the area you previously marked off. This will loosen the soil and make it easier for water to get to your seeds.
Planting the Seeds of Good Mental Health
Hardware stores will often carry packages of seeds of all types of vegetables and flowers for just a few dollars. Some carrots, radishes, and onions can be great vegetables to start with, as they are hardy and require little maintenance. Create several rows and mark them off with a small flag so you know where you will be planting. Keep around 12 inches (ca. 30 centimeters) of space between each row.
You can now start planting a seed every six inches along the row by pushing them into the soil about a finger length deep. Cover the seeds with fresh soil but do not pack them.
When it comes to watering your new garden, don’t overwater it but be sure to give it enough water to dampen the soil twice a day. One way you can do this is by taking an old hose, poking tiny holes in it, and laying it along the length of your garden. When you plug the end, the water will be forced out of the small holes you made and provide a gentle stream of coverage for your plants. This will be the start of your very first garden.
Spending time in the sun is vital but it can also be harmful if you don’t wear sunscreen. Make sure that when you are spending prolonged periods outdoors that you are properly protected from sun exposure or are wearing enough sunscreen. The beneficial feeling of the warm kiss of sunlight is something that cannot be underestimated but too much sunlight can lead to skin problems.
The Gift That Keeps on Giving
The extra exposure to the soil, grass, and sunlight will have a powerful effect on your wellbeing once you give it a chance. Even if this sounds like too much work for you, you will be surprised at just how much you enjoy a little gardening. If you decided to plant vegetables, you will also have the joy of watching your vegetables grow over the weeks and at the end of the process, you’ll have some garden fresh vegetables to show off and enjoy.
Saving the World One Step at a Time
The health benefits and delicious vegetables aren’t the only reason that gardening is a good thing. Creating a food source without pesticides also creates a positive alternative to store-bought produce and mass farming. The soil itself is alive and full of tiny living organisms that can be made healthy by giving it natural nutrients from compost. The compost in the soil will contain natural soil amendments and fertilizer and helps recycle nutrients. Compost also helps protect plants from pests and even diseases by forming a natural line of defense.
Just be careful what you try to grow; some plants and fruits will attract unwanted attention. For example, birds love to eat raspberries and you may find yourself wanting to put up netting over some of your gardens to keep the critters away.
Using non-toxic methods to fertilize such as compost and avoiding toxic chemicals will help curb the spread of these chemicals in our environment where they can be harmful to certain species.
One thing you will learn rather quickly is that some insects cannot be avoided. Just get used to having some extra bees and other little insects around since you are creating an environment they will thrive in by keeping the soil fresh and watered.
Get Out and Garden!
If you avoid pesticides, practice good water conservation, and take care of your skin while gardening, there is virtually no excuse not to have your own garden. There are too many benefits to be had from this simple hobby to pass it up. You may even inspire a friend or family member to get out and do the same. We all have a grandparent or friend who could benefit from some extra time in the outdoors and there is no safer place to get outside than your own backyard.