Even though urban sprawl represents a fairly large threat to social mental health and well-being, small islands of hope are beginning to crop up across the cityscape. According to many modern researchers, health benefits are waiting to be collected from the dirt in a personal garden.
Across the planet, and especially in the big cities, modern health enthusiasts are coming up with some creative ways to practice their own form of horticulture in their city habitats, and the results are tremendous. Working closely with plants allows the human mind to resync itself to an ancient and timeless process of life and rebirth.
The health benefits of interacting with plant life are wide-ranging and can form an important part of a healthy and balanced life. Highlighted below is the science behind the special relationship that humans share with plants and how the cultivation of good health is a two-way garden path.
Getting Down and Dirty Releases Happy Neurotransmitters
One of the most revolutionary studies about gardening activities showed an important connection between getting dirty and being happy. It seems that kids, with their penchant for getting dirty, had the right idea all along because having contact with soil in a garden has been found to increase serotonin levels in the body.
Reconnecting with the Natural World
Gardening allows individuals to gain a closer connection to the delicate ecosystem that supports life in the garden. There are worms to aerate the soils, moles that eat worms and damage tender shoots, ladybugs to fight off parasites, and all kinds of birds.
Recovering from addiction to anything from drugs and alcohol to gambling and compulsive overeating can be a challenge. The initial […]
As spring rolls into summer, it’s time to fire up the grill and spend time in the refreshing outdoor air. […]
More and more, people are electing to use essential oil diffusers as an alternative to vaping. Essential oils are healthier, […]
According to one hypothesis, taking the time to move at the speed of nature allows a major strain to be released from the prefrontal cortex, the part that sustains human attention span. When the mind is fatigued from this strain, the sights, sound, and smells of a natural environment have an almost meditative quality to them, allowing the mind to relax.2
The Thrill of the Harvest
The thrill of watching the fruit of your efforts is enough to trigger a high that has been found very similar to the feeling gained from a shopping experience just before the items are purchased.
Researchers figure this physiological response contributed to the establishment of the Agricultural Revolution. Consider an early human hunter-gatherer gazing at an underdeveloped crop of apples on a fruit-laden tree. Obviously, they had not reached full maturity and couldn’t be eaten yet, but our early ancestors know that when this tree was mature, there would be a feast.
This anticipation is thought to be hard-wired into the human brain. The physiological reaction here is a release of dopamine, a “feel good” neurotransmitter that has been associated with euphoria and bliss. This release can be triggered by looking at fruit, smelling the plants, and above all, picking the fruit from its plant source.
Then there is an uncanny feeling of accomplishment when preparing a dessert of strawberries and cream for your guests and knowing each bite personally from when it was barely a seedling.3
In addition to the variety of attractive sights and sounds in the garden, there is an important set of smells that can bring back childhood memories, increase appetite, or even reduce stress.
Most people appreciate the smells of a garden, including freshly cut grass, floral beds, and aromatic mulch, among many others.
Most importantly, this air is rich in secondary metabolites released from flowers, trees, and plants. Secondary metabolites are a special set of chemicals that are not directly dedicated to photosynthesis or the plant’s growth. Rather, these chemicals are produced to allow the plant to better-survive in its natural environment.
It is these highly aromatic compounds that make the rose fragrant, jasmine seductive, rosemary aromatic, and cinnamon spicy. More importantly, these aromatic compounds have been a part of human evolution for the greater part of our years as a species.
Our ancestors lived, hunted, gathered, and existed in environments rich in these aromatic compounds. Because of this, taking some time to breathe in the benefits of these aromatic compounds is an important part of boosting health in the modern.
Loneliness is a cause of distress and a rising issue even in densely-populated cities, but solitude is something different entirely. Anecdotal, philosophical, artistic and even psychological studies have highlighted the many benefits that taking time to be alone can have on the mind, outlook, and quality of life.
While gardening is a great way to practice beneficial solitude, it is hardly lonely. Plants have fascinating and persistent personalities that take time and patience to nurture to fruition. They relish the carbon dioxide you provide to them and repay your offering with aromatic compounds and life-giving oxygen.
Mental and Physical Health Boost
The lightly strenuous physical activity and hours spent in the healthy outdoor environment in gardens has been found to contribute to overall mental and physical health.
Many studies highlight the effects that gardening has on promoting good mental and physical health. These studies go on to show that regular gardening could be a way to improve public health.6
Healthy Food and Produce
Finally, if you have a veggie or flower garden, you also have a fairly constant supply of healthy and nutritious plant products for application in the home or kitchen. Flower plants can be rotated to grace indoor environments and window sills. The vegetables and fruits from your garden will also feature a far more complex and rich flavor array than the commercially produced options at the supermarket.
Taking time to relax in a big city is important, and gardening is the perfect relaxation technique. Whether it’s the inhalation of beneficial aromatic compounds or adding physical activity into a typically-sedentary lifestyle, the addition of gardening to your daily routine can provide a wide range of health benefits.