Back when I was a child, I used to go to our garden with my family almost every day. It was located at the other end of our village and offered a million different things to play with. My sister and I would use soil, water, plants and all the garden equipment our parents had as elements in our games, which is why we were never bored when we played there.
Little did I know what great an effect playing in nature had on our health.
Time has passed since then and living in a big and bubbly city with everything so conveniently close to my apartment, doesn’t require going out into nature anymore. Neither to forage food nor to play or, let’s put it in a grown-up way, to entertain me. I have turned into a city girl who truly enjoys the benefits of living in a metropolis, especially having access to everything I need within minutes (from friends to work to highway to airport to stores to entertainment and so on). And yet I still feel the positive effect nature has on me whenever I visit my parents (they have a new garden now, one that is bigger and carries more plants but also less memories) or whenever I get the chance to escape the vibrant city life and wind down.
Unfortunately, I have not been gifted with a green thumb like my parents (and it sometimes makes me feel a bit like a fraud, being so much into green food and the green lifestyle). I admire them for their eagerness and patience with all the plants, fruits, vegetables and flowers they sow year by year. It is a delight to watch them experience the excitement from when the season starts in early spring to when they sow the first seeds, to watch their seedlings blossom and grow, until the produce is ready to be harvested and we can eventually cook and enjoy them in our meals.
These moments, when we come together and feast on our own produce, which we know is healthy and organic, and which simply tastes unbelievably good, are the greatest.
Looking through some past season’s pictures of my parents’ garden inspired me to write about why keeping a garden is such a great thing, especially in times when the access to food has become so convenient and easy for us that we don’t even need to get up and go into the store but can now easily order groceries online.
There is clear evidence that a garden has positive effects on our health, both mentally and physically. The following reasons are the basis for why it’s always a good idea to leave the city walls behind and dive into our green environment, no matter if it’s a garden, forest, field or anything that falls into the category of natural green.
- Sunshine and fresh air trigger happy hormones. Exposing ourselves to cleaner air and sunrays (don’t forget UV-protection) releases endorphins in our body, which makes us happy, relaxed and at ease (think of all the Vitamin D we naturally get through sun exposure). If this would be your only reason to embrace gardening and working outdoors then it would definitely be enough, but let’s give you some more reasons and research on the topic.
- Fighting off stress and anxiety. This one is closely related to the previous benefits, since happy hormones inadvertently fight off stress, anxiety, bad mood, anger, sadness and depression. While working in a garden we create an outlet for our anxiety to evaporate, while at the same time helping to create something new and flourishing. Welcome happiness!
- Sleep improvement. I know this is a big one, for one because some of us really need to catch up on sleep and suffer from insomnia or sleep disorders more often than not and secondly because many health sites cite a trillion things that will help improve sleep. As a matter of fact, an overall healthier lifestyle is bound to improve sleep but working in nature even more so. The physical activity accompanying us in nature will tire us while we feel less stressed and anxious.
- Sense of life and connectedness. This might sound a bit spiritual at first, but it makes sense if we take a closer look. When we dig into horticulture, we create and we nurture, we feel responsible for living creatures, therefore we feel compassionate, meaningful and connected to earth, Mother Nature, the plants and ourselves.
- Decreasing the risk of various diseases. Being in the nature and especially working in a garden can evidently reduce the risks of heart disease, diabetes, chronic sleep disorders, dementia and many more. It has also been proven that children who are exposed to bacteria, soil and nature develop healthier and stronger immune systems than children who have spent less time outdoors.
- Harvesting our own organic fruits and vegetables. Despite the absence of my green thumb, I still enjoy the benefits of gardening on my plate (thanks to my lovely and patient parents). When we sow, nurture and harvest our own food, we know exactly what’s inside and more importantly what is not. My father loves to highlight the fact that we are eating organic tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce, raspberries, beans, pepper, pumpkin and many more beautiful veggies from our garden. It’s also much more rewarding to indulge in food we have invested our own sweat, time and effort into.
Once you start researching deeper into the health benefits of gardening, you’ll find many more reasons why it is good for our body and mind to spend more time outdoors instead of cuddling up in our comfy zone and netflixing our way through.
Since it’s not feasible for everyone to get a garden right away and start self-sustaining, I recommend researching shared garden spaces at your local community and see if you can find a spot there and engage yourself. You will be rewarded with all the great benefits I’ve listed above and additionally, social contacts and a community that eventually will create friendships. What are you waiting for?