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11 Surprising Ways Gardening Makes You Healthier & Happier

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11 Surprising Ways Gardening Makes You Healthier & Happier

If you love to garden then you probably already know intuitively that it's a great way to forget your problems and enjoy yourself. But it goes much further than that, gardening brings many benefits and it may surprise you just how good for you it is.

Here are 11 ways that keeping your own garden can make you happier and healthier.

1. Gardening battles depression

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Gardener's World released a survey in 2013 that confirmed something I think we all suspected, but it's nice to have proof. Gardeners are generally more content and happy with their lives and they are less likely to be depressed.

80% of gardeners feel satisfied with their lives, compared to only 67% of non-gardeners, and of those with no hobbies only 55% are happy. (citation)

2. Gardening reduces your blood pressure

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It's easy to forget that our natural habitat is outdoors, among the plants and the dirt. But when you think about it, it shouldn't be surprising that just seeing some "green stuff" can go a long way to reducing your stress and lowering your blood pressure.

People who spend lots of time outdoors, in nature are less likely to have high blood pressure, and what better way to enjoy nature than to get up close and personal with it in the garden? (citation)

3. Gardening lowers your risk of dementia

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They say that keeping yourself mentally active is in itself an effective way to beat dementia, but more than that, being in the garden allows you to focus on your plants, long-term stress can be mentally damaging, and your garden is a great place to get away from that stress. (citation)

4. Gardening makes you better at relationships

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Some studies suggest that growing plants teaches you to have more empathy toward other living things (citation), which in turn makes you better at relationships. That's right, gardeners are better at building and nurturing relationships, friendships etc...

Again, it's an indirect benefit, but it's no surprise that people who don't socialise much are more likely to be depressed and lonely, so the ability to form strong friendships matters.

5. Gardening reduces your exposure to pollution

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If you garden regularly, you probably also have a few plants in the house. Plants are amazing at reducing pollution (citation), soaking up impurities in the air and releasing lots of oxygen. All of which is great for your health.

Spending time in your garden means that you get less pollution and more fresh air, and bringing your garden into the home helps boost that benefit even further.

In fact, the reduction in pollution may even help to reduce headaches? Either way, it certainly improves your mood and makes you feel happier.

6. Gardening boosts serotonin production

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Serotonin is a natural mood enhancing hormone and not having enough of it can lead to depression and all sorts of mental problems. Fortunately, regular contact with dirt has been shown to boost serotonin levels (citation).

7. Gardening boosts dopamine production

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And while playingin the dirt boosts serotonin, receiving the fruits of your labour is also a trigger for your brain's reward centre. When you see a plant that you have grown, or smell it... and especially when you harvest your own food, your brain thanks you with a nice shot of dopamine (citation).

This means that growing veg gives you a natural high. Similar to what some people feel when clothes shopping, but much better (and cheaper!)

8. Gardening teaches you to think ahead

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As well as the chemical benefits, gardening also teaches you to be a happier person. Studies have shown that people who think ahead and sacrifice immediate reward for future benefits are generally happier and have more stable lives.

Gardening teaches you to do exactly that. You have to work hard to prepare your garden, plant your seeds, keep them watered and tended to...

Often you have to spend hours out in the rain, toiling to keep your plants healthy. In fact, it's easy to see why some people don't fancy it!

But when your hard work pays off and your flowers bloom, your strawberries ripen and your potatoes are ready for harvest it makes it all worthwhile doesn't it?

What better lesson to teach yourself? Gardening is all about future reward, and the hard work that it requires just goes to boost the satisfaction you feel.

9. Gardening teaches you to be optimistic

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Gardeners are optimists - it's official. It may be surprising though, when your crop fails, your flowers don't survive a cold spring or your spuds get a winter frost...

But when things don't go the way you would like, you have to carry on. There are always new seeds to sow. If your spring veg doesn't come out how you had hoped, you start planning for winter. Re-dig your garden, prepare the soil and start looking forward to some lovely winter lettuces.

And whatever happens, there's always next year!

Pretty soon you learn to be optimistic because you're too busy thinking about the next season to worry about the failures of this season! (citation)

10. Gardening is good for you physically

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We shouldn't forget of course that gardening is also good exercise. No matter what your age, it keeps you moving and provides gentle exercise and helps release stress.

Jules Pretty, a professor at the University of Essex, says that interaction with green places and exercise outdoors is good for you physically and mentally.

It is also well established that exercise is good for you (citation) and your mood in both the short term and the long term. Being active encourages release of endorphins which produce a euphoric feeling. Additionally, regular exercise improves circulation and increases energy levels.

These benefits may not seem directly related to happiness, but when you have more energy you are less likely to feel lethargic, which can lead to depression. And of course more energy means you can do more - more gardening and enjoy more of those other benefits above.

11. Soil is an antidepressant!

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This is perhaps the strangest one of all. Did you know that soil is an antidepressant? By gardening you may actually be treating depression (or preventing it) and keeping your body healthy at the same time!

Seriously... In reality, it is not the soil itself, but a bacterium found in soil known as Mycobacterium vaccae (citation).

This bacteria is found in our own bodies and it plays a vital role in how our bodies function.

Given that 90% of the cells in our bodies are not our own this probably isn't hugely surprising. Mycobacterium vaccae in particular have been shown to help regulate our immune systems and reduce inflammation.

Scientists think that since we have co-evolved with these bacteria over many millennia, our bodies have been programmed to respond positively to them, as being in contact with them is good for us.

For that reason, just the act of being in regular contact with a nice bit of mud can make you feel happier in very real and long-term way.

Conclusion

So there you go - there are many, many ways in which spending some time in your garden might help to make you a happier person. What more reason do you need to try a little bit of gardening this summer?

We will sure be out there, rain or shine!

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