The benefits of gardening

JONELLE DUNCAN WILLOCK

Gardening brings me immeasurable joy. I have no doubt that it’s adding years to my life. To quote my husband, “Your face just lights up when you talk about your plants with your friends.” Plants and gardens serve multiple benefits. My garden is my “go to place” on a daily basis, but even more so during times of personal stress. From my personal experience, gardening often provides a form of escape, allowing me to free my mind and to clear my head by affording me the time to shift my focus.

Even the most drought-tolerant plants cannot survive and thrive without your time, energy and devotion. Although the garden presents constant challenges for various reasons inclusive of pest management, weed control, and garden design, once these are well managed the garden will reward you by being a beautiful space to view and to be in, fostering a sense of pride and accomplishment thereby boosting your self-esteem.

There have been numerous studies that show gardening has many health-related benefits, boosting ones physical, mental and emotional well-being. Gardening allows us the opportunity to relax, shed some stress and in essence to slow down and “smell the roses” partly because we are required to pay attention to detail. Whether you are designing a garden and opt to select plants that are drought-tolerant, or plants with varying colour foliage that look good together, or plants that will attract hummingbirds and butterflies, clay, concrete or glazed flower pots, these all involve bringing out your creative side and paying attention to some level of detail. This will, in the long run, allow you to sit back and enjoy your garden, drawing your eye to the elements that you have selected that will make you ultimately happy, thereby reducing your stress levels.

Physical exercise is also one of the health benefits that can be derived from gardening. To maintain our gardens we must do activities inclusive of weeding, pruning, hoeing, and digging which involve lifting, squatting, and bending as we engage the muscles of both our lower and upper body. It is suggested that a simple hour of gardening can burn as many as 330 calories, so it seems to be a wonderful alternative to visiting the gym to work out.

Gardening also has the ability to improve our immune system as a result of our bodies producing vitamin D due to sun exposure. Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium, which in turn helps to maintain the health of bones and teeth, support the health of the immune system, brain and nervous system, fight disease, and reduce depression.

Some additional benefits of gardening include helping to reduce the risk of dementia, providing therapy for addiction recovery, encouraging healthier diets (for those of us who have vegetable gardens). Gardening also serves as a means to socialise by connecting with friends and family through ventures such as community gardening or the formation of garden clubs. Actually, I have met some wonderful people as a result of my interest in gardening and have fostered several genuine and treasured friendships over the years. I encourage you to get out there and garden, use those creative skills, to get those muscles working, and to make sure that you relax and enjoy it, above all else.

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