Mental Health

Want Free Benefits? Garden!

A rare and special find!

"The glory of gardening; hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul" - Alfred Austin 

A special thanks to Rachel Potter for this insightful guest post.

It’s the kind of story that people hear about but have a hard time believing: Cheryl Corbin, a Mifflin County woman, was digging in her garden and found a rare 1793 penny - a copper cent similar to this one with Lady Liberty shown on its face. A coin like this may be worth several thousands of dollars.

 Of course, as exciting as it would be for a coin collector - or anyone - to find a rare piece of history in her plot of dirt, most gardeners are there for other reasons and discover other things that are just as valuable to them as a rare coin or other treasure. Here are a few to consider:

Time spent in the natural world - How many hours do we all spend in front of screens every day? While it may seem normal to our kids to always be plugged into some kind of a device, people in Generation X and older remember the days when you had to make your own entertainment and when parents, tired of the noise, told you to “Go outside. Be back by dinnertime.” It wasn’t even bad, wandering about and seeing what was happening around you. In your garden there are hundreds of things to observe, and only some of them are about the plants you’ve planted. How does the wildlife interact with your plants? How does the cycle of life and death play out everyday there? Watching a plant grow from a tiny seed to a prolific producer of food or flowers is an everyday miracle. Don’t forget it.

Health benefits - An often cited anecdote is that gardeners live longer than people, and there are reasons to believe this is true. Besides the known health benefits of exercise, breathing fresh air, and exposure to the sunshine, working with and in the dirt can help you avoid illness. Why? Exposure to the micro-organisms, minerals, and bacteria in the soil is a good way of keeping your immune system on its toes. Scientists now believe that many auto-immune diseases like Crohn’s Disease are partially the result of too sterile conditions. A garden, by definition, is the opposite of sterile! A garden is life.

Mental health benefits - Gardening can cause your stress levels and your blood pressure to drop. Doing repetitive tasks in a natural environment is relaxing in ways we don’t even fully understand. Studies have shown that children with behavior problems do better when exposed to trees and other plants - just playing in a place with trees actually helps. Imagine how much better it is for your peace of mind to work hands-on with plants. For many people gardening can be a form of meditation or even prayer so it’s physical, mental, and spiritual exercise.

One of the worst things about modern life in terms of well being, is how so much of it is done in artificial and sterile surroundings. Human beings evolved in the natural world, and their bodies need the things found there to live, grow, and develop. Other people may view gardening as a hobby, but it’s really a way of living again the way people lived in tune with their surroundings for thousands of years. Realizing that and choosing to take advantage of the resulting benefits will benefit you far more than even discovering buried treasure will!