If you knew that there was one activity in which you could engage which would feed your mind, body and soul would you give it a go?
There is, and it’s right outside your back door, on your balcony, in a pot, or even on your windowsill. It’s vitamin gardening, an activity which will elevate you to a place of calm, of satisfaction, of pride.
Gardens and allotments restore us in so many ways, coaxing us into a better mood or getting us moving when we don’t feel like it, gently distracting us from nagging worries when a seedling germinates, a beautiful blossom opens, or we revel in the joy of eating our own produce.
Studies have shown that simply being in a garden is good for mind, body, and soul: it lowers the heart rate, calms brain activity, and makes people feel more connected to the world around them – it literally grounds us and never was that more important than in the period we have all just lived through!
The mental health charity MIND compared short walks through a garden with short walks through a shopping centre. Those who walked through a garden showed the greater improvement in mental health.
Levels of the stress hormone cortisol are thought to reduce after half an hour in the garden or on the allotment, and a report in the Mental Health Journal confirmed gardening as being able to reduce stress and improve mood, with a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Regular, energetic gardening provides the same positive health benefits as jogging or swimming. Considered moderate-intensity exercise, you can burn around 300 calories doing one hour of light gardening like pushing a lawnmower or wheelbarrow around, which is more calories burned than walking at a moderate pace for the same amount of time.
Gardening activities engage the whole body, calling on all the major muscle group in the back, legs and abdominal areas. Stretching, pushing, pulling, digging and lifting will work multiple muscles at one time, strengthening those muscles as well as joints and bones.
You are also outside breathing in fresh air, gaining a vitamin D boost, and connecting with nature, all whilst benefitting from the physical exercise of gardening.
Did you know just being near a plant can reduce your blood pressure, slow your heart rate, and decrease feelings of pain, stress and fear? There are some fascinating Japanese and Korean studies that have measured these changes taking place.
Even as far back as 1993 a study of post-surgery patients who were presented with different views in their rooms whilst recovering, found those who looked on to natural scenes needed fewer doses of strong pain medication and were less anxious overall in recovery.
Never has it been more important than in these troubling times to get outside for fresh air and exercise. Just thirty minutes of gardening activity will give you fresh air, a dose of vitamin D, physical exercise, and will relieve stress and lift your mood – all of which will lead to a better night’s sleep.
If you needed a final reason to convince you of engaging with vitamin G, gardening has been shown as an activity which can prevent cognitive decline and in Japan, studies have linked access to green space to increased longevity. For a long, healthy and happy life, get out and pick up a spade!