Can Gardening Reduce Stress?

October 31, 2022

Americans are more stressed than ever. It’s affecting our bodies, moods, and behaviors. Left unchecked, stress can cause serious and even life-threatening issues, such as heart disease and stroke.

Unlike coping mechanisms like drinking alcohol and sleeping poorly, a hobby like gardening relieves stress in a healthy way that helps keep your body and mind sharp. In honor of National Stress Awareness Day (celebrated annually on the first Wednesday in November), let’s learn more.

Why is gardening good for you?

Whether you’re planting flowers or herbs, pulling weeds, or composting, it’s clear gardening provides a wide array of physical and mental benefits.

Encourages a healthy diet

Many people stress-eat sugary, fatty foods when they’re overburdened, leading to weight gain and indigestion. Mindful eating, on the other hand, prioritizes healthy, thoughtful food choices, which is easier to do when you grow your own food in your own backyard. Eating your own home-grown fruits and vegetables is cost-effective as well.

Consider growing some of these fruits and vegetables in your garden.

  • Bell peppers are rich in antioxidants that can alleviate chronic pain and reduce swelling and help keep heart disease and cancer at bay.
  • Spinach boosts your immune system and curbs your appetite.
  • Apples are a good source of fiber, lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, and promote heart and gut health.

Provides a full-body workout

When you consider all that’s needed to build and maintain a garden — kneeling, squatting, lifting heavy bags, digging, and mulching — it’s no wonder you can burn up to 300 calories an hour. This physical exertion improves your dexterity and endurance, builds strong bones and muscles, lowers blood pressure, and, most importantly, reduces the likelihood of developing diseases like diabetes, obesity, and cancer.

Lowers your cortisol levels

When asked “why is gardening good for you?”, many can speak to how the hobby restores them. According to a recent study, simply adding a few plants to your yard is enough to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. High cortisol levels can lead to high blood pressure, an increased risk of cancer and autoimmune disease, and digestive problems.

In addition to healthier cortisol levels, the researchers found that gardening helped their participants relax, feel happier, be closer to nature, and get motivated to do more gardening in other areas of their yards.

Gets you outside

Sometimes, when you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed, a little air and sunshine are all you need. Being outside has been shown to calm nerves, reduce anxiety, improve problem-solving skills, and curtail repetitive, negative thoughts. It even gives your prefrontal cortex a break, which impacts your attention span and how you manage emotion.

So why is gardening good for you? The answer is clear. Most hobbies help get your mind off the stresses of work, family and everyday life, but the best hobbies — like gardening — improve your mental and physical health, too.