Getting Muddy Really Can Make You Happier!

Digging, planting vegetables, harvesting fruits, mowing, weeding, watering and composting - for some people, these are chores to do over the weekend! However, research has shown that gardening can provide more benefits than merely marking these tasks off a list. There is suggestive evidence that your environment has significant effects on wellbeing and recovery.

There is no actual accepted image of what a model environment should be for any specific person. We have diverse needs as individuals. While there may be no universal model of an ideal environment, a great way to experience a positive impact from your environment may be as simple as occasionally getting a little muddy! Gardening can actually help you to feel happier, more confident, and healthier. It can even help people through a specific period of difficulty in their lives and restore balance.

Research from Thrive, a charity operating from the United Kingdom, attests to the powerful benefits of gardening under six specific headings.

Better physical health – Gardening is a form of exercise that can be used in rehabilitation, rebuilding strength after an accident or illness. It has been shown it can help improve bone density in older people and can help us in tackling problems such as obesity, which can lead to more serious problems such as diabetes. Also, you can work at your own pace; taking one step at a time.

Improved psychological health – Gardening can be used as a therapeutic vehicle towards fostering deeper spiritual connectedness, increased self-esteem, physical wellness and also social inclusion. There are aspects of gardening that greatly impact our mental health such as the ability to help us with optimism, offering a regular routine, a sense of purpose and achievement. It is also interesting to observe the parallel between the behavior patterns of nurturing of the garden and that of self-care. For those who garden in a group, there can be additional positive effects on their self-esteem and self-worth.

Social benefits – Greater social contact can lend to a healthy experience. Gardening offers a sustainable interest, which can help people to connect with others and for some, an opportunity to improve social and communication skills. Volunteering at a garden project or in conservation is a great way to get involved in your local community and enjoy working outdoors, meeting people, and making new friends. Families can also reap these social benefits as it can foster intergenerational links. For example- a grandmother sharing gardening with her grandchildren by planting seeds or talking about the shapes and colors with them nurtures a maternal instinct, while also providing emotional support.

Qualifications and skills – A recognized horticultural qualification can increase the chances of employment. Taking part in structured gardening activities offers the opportunity to improve skills such as initiative, co-operation, patience, concentration, and literacy, all of which are useful in all areas of life. Moreover, during the last 3 decades, the number of active gardeners under 50 has decreased. As it becomes a specialized skill, teaching and employment opportunities increase further.

Access to the natural environment – Research in environmental psychology shows that the natural environment promotes recovery from stress and helps to restore the ability to focus attention. Gardens provide restorative environments. Being outside, getting fresh air, and seeing things grow is important to us as human beings. Gardening allows us to connect with nature.

This interaction with nature can provide a sense of freedom. It may provide individuals the opportunity to engage and maintain an occupational identity as contributing members of our society. Arguably, this can help to provide perspective especially to those caught up in the created ideals of success where the pressure of social conformity and the accompanying fear of failure provide a recipe for stress and overload.