There are some hobbies that allow me to create things, others allow me to use my creativity. Some I do because they help me get exercise, and some I do because they relax me. It’s rare to find a hobby that accomplishes all of these, but gardening does. Whether I’m maintaining an acre of flowers and vegetables or a small front yard garden, the processes are the same. For me, gardening is the ultimate mental health booster. Here’s how. It gives me the chance to play and nurture; the simple act of planting a flower, in some ways, is representative of selflessness. I am giving up my time to care for another living thing. As a human, I have a need to be a nurturer – whether that be to an ill parent that needs help, a new child, or in this case, a plant that cannot survive without my tender love and care.
Having living things that depend on me for survival is a great way to boost self-esteem, instil a sense of purpose, and ultimately help battle the hopelessness that comes with feelings of depression. Simply being among nature is a proven mood enhancer. Depression, anxiety, and stress are all aided by the simple action of surrounding myself with nature, as studies have shown. One such study found that the difference in depressive symptoms of those living near trees as opposed to those not living near trees was similar to the outcomes of those with no health insurance and those with private health plans. Another study found that “flowers are a natural and healthful moderator of moods and have an immediate impact on mood, and make for more intimate connections between individuals.” In my opinion, gardening is a top-tier stress buster.
Stress is a hard thing to manage – especially in today’s fast-paced world. I am a busy person, overwhelmed by work, kids, too many activities, and a constant stream of media telling me that productivity is the number one judge of self-worth. When I need to take a break and de-stress, gardening provides one of the best outlets around. For one, I’m taking a break from all of my other responsibilities. I’m also engaging in almost meditative movements – working with soil, digging, raking, planting, etc. Poor mental health doesn’t just leave me unhappy – it can also make me vulnerable to unhealthy behaviours.
Without healthy ways to cope with feelings of stress and anxiety, I often turn to the worst possible coping mechanisms such as junk food. For some, this means drugs and alcohol. Poor mental health and drug addiction often go hand in hand. Substances may seem to alleviate the effects of depression, anxiety, and stress in the short term. But in the long term substances merely exacerbate problems. Psychiatrists refer to this as “withdrawal depression,” which is when the body hits new depressive lows when a substance leaves the body, resulting in an unhealthy, continuous cycle. Gardening may not solve all of my problems but it is certainly a healthy way to help manage stress, depression, anxiety, and to generally boost my overall mental wellness. It’s vital that I find healthy ways to cope with my mental deficiencies because the alternative is a downward spiral that only gets worse and worse the more I try to control it.