Gardening can lift your mood even if you’ve never done it before and have no mental health issues, a new study has revealed.
It has long been known that for people who struggle with their mental health, gardening can help improve their mood.
But a new study involving healthy women has now found that even if they had never gardened before, a twice-weekly class had greatly lowered their stress, anxiety and depression.
Scientists from the University of Florida think the reason might lie in our innate attraction to plants because we depend on them for food, shelter and other means of our survival.
As professor emeritus in the university’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ environmental horticulture department and a principal investigator for the study, Charles Guy, said: “Many longtime gardeners will tell you that the garden is their happy place.
“Past studies have shown that gardening can help improve the mental health of people who have existing medical conditions or challenges.
“Our study shows that healthy people can also experience a boost in mental well-being through gardening.”
The team looked at 32 women aged between 26 and 49 who they split into a gardening class and an art class.
All were screened for factors such as chronic health conditions, tobacco use and drug abuse, and having been prescribed medications for anxiety or depression.
Both groups met twice a week for a total of eight times. The art group served as a point of comparison with the gardening group.
Guy said: “Both gardening and art activities involve learning, planning, creativity and physical movement, and they are both used therapeutically in medical settings.
“This makes them more comparable, scientifically speaking, than, for example, gardening and bowling or gardening and reading.”
In the gardening sessions, participants learned how to compare and sow seeds, transplant different kinds of plants, and harvest and taste edible plants.
Those in the art-making sessions learned techniques such as papermaking, printmaking, drawing and collage.
Participants completed a series of assessments measuring anxiety, depression, stress and mood.
The researchers found that the gardening and art-making groups experienced similar improvements in mental health over time, with gardeners reporting slightly less anxiety than art makers.
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE and showed that even with the relatively small number of participants and the length of the study, the researchers were still able to demonstrate evidence of what medical clinicians would call the dosage effects of gardening, which is, how much gardening someone has to do to see improvements in mental health.
Guy added : “Larger-scale studies may reveal more about how gardening is correlated with changes in mental health.
“We believe this research shows promise for mental well-being, plants in healthcare and in public health.
“The reason might be found in the important role of plants in human evolution and the rise of civilization.
“At the end of the experiment, many of the participants were saying not just how much they enjoyed the sessions but also how they planned to keep gardening.”
Produced in association with SWNS.
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