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Doctor's Orders: Get Out in the Garden

Scientific research has shown that gardening is a healthy, mentally engaging activity which has a variety of benefits, both mentally and psychologically. Furthermore, gardening is an activity that a variety of people can enjoy, including seniors, children, and people with disabilities. With a little planning and forethought, almost anybody can get some enjoyment out of their garden -- or somebody else's. A garden can start very small, with a collection of pots on a patio, or even a few cuttings or herbs in a window box. You only need to plant a single seed to enjoy all of the satisfaction that gardening can offer.

Growing Your Own Food is Rewarding

Gardening is a healthy activity. Working in the garden provides a whole host of benefits, not least of which is the enjoyment that physical activity brings: a chance to enjoy the outdoors, and the opportunity to raise your pulse in a low-impact and engaging activity. In addition, you will have the opportunity to provide yourself and your family with a healthy source of cheap, wholesome food. Gardening offers a unique opportunity to appreciate first-hand the effort that goes into farming. You (and anybody else that you garden with) will discover new foods and have a priceless opportunity to connect with the way that food is farmed. There is nothing more rewarding than making a salad with your own tomatoes and lettuce! Several studies have shown that those who grow their own food eat healthier, which means that growing a garden is a positive step for your health and that of your family.

Gardening Can Help Reduce Stress

Gardening also helps you to relax and reduce your overall stress levels, helping you to cope more readily with the stresses of life. Gardening is a highly variable activity which engages all of your senses, and your sense of creativity and imagination. In fact, many gardeners view their gardening as an antidote to all of the stresses of the modern world. If you sit at a desk or a telephone all day, there is something freeing about simply putting your hands in the dirt. The sensory cornucopia of gardening can help you to connect with a slower way of living, in an environment where rewards are a long time coming but the activity is a reward in and of itself. Recent scientific studies, including research conducted in the Netherlands, suggest that gardening can reduce stress hormones more readily than other leisure activities.

Gardening Has Mental Health Benefits

Gardening requires a sort of attention which is focussed yet effortless. Your mind will be engaged with what you are doing, but in a free, easy fashion. Being immersed in the soothing environment that your garden can offer can even help to improve symptoms of depression and other mood disorders! In one study which was conducted in Norway, people diagnosed with unipolar depression or bipolar disorder spent around six hours per week gardening, growing both flowers and vegetables. After three months, half of the study participants had experienced a significant alleviation of their symptoms. The positive effect on mood even continued after the subjects were no longer gardening. In addition, some scientific research has suggested that regular gardening can help lower the risk of developing dementia.

Gardening is Great Exercise

Gardening gives you a chance to get out in the fresh air and exposes you to sunlight, which can naturally boost mood and health. It also gets your body moving! Even light gardening will cause you to make a lot of different movements, which means you will get a mild workout out of your gardening. Of course, unless you are moving large amounts of soil or chopping down trees, gardening isn't necessarily cardio, but planting and weeding are an excellent form of low-impact exercise, especially for people with disabilities, seniors, or those who suffer from chronic pain. In addition, because gardening is a pleasurable and goal-oriented activity, you are more likely to stick to it and let the activity become a habit.

How to Start a Garden

You don't need access to a huge backyard or somebody else's green thumb to benefit from all of the above aspects of gardening. You can start gardening any time, with very little space or experience. If you do not have access to a yard, consider starting out with a few potted plants; you could even plant herbs in a planter or container. All you need to produce your own crop of cherry tomatoes is a large bucket and some soil. If you want to learn how to garden, look for information online: there is a wealth of gardening blogs and forums on the internet. If you want face-to-face help, consider joining a gardening group. Local garden clubs often work in community gardens in the city, which are great if you do not have a garden of your own. Most gardeners are happy to share their expertise. All you need to do is plant a seed!

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