by Maureen Catlin
Milton Ernest Garden Centre
WE gardeners didn’t really need the Pundits to tell us – GARDENING IS GOOD FOR YOU.
It is a low intensity work out that encourages an active lifestyle.
Research shows that not only do Gardeners get health benefits from the physical exercise when digging, raking leaves, hoeing and mowing the lawn but mentally it is healthy as well. Gardening helps to keep the brain active and creative reducing the risk of dementia in over 60-year-olds by up to 40%. The physical exercise reduces stress and the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and stroke. It gives us challenges that when achieved promote feelings of satisfaction and happiness. Gardening burns calories helping to control weight, relieves stress and improves the immune system. It demands responsibility giving us a sense of worth, improves the sensory skills, assists with anger management and helps us live in the moment. Repetitive tasks like weeding, watering and trimming help to calm the mind.
If I’ve had a grotty day a “20 minute Hoe” on the veg patch chopping away at those weeds encourages the positive feelings associated with tidying up tasks. The stress hormone Cortisol is lowered in the brain by engaging in a rewarding activity. Gardening has been shown to do this. High levels of Cortisol in your brain can affect memory and learning hence the phrase “I have a lot on my mind”. Gardening can be enjoyed at many levels providing the gentle physical exercise which removes negative thoughts produced by life’s stresses and helps restore the mind set balance.
Gardening is an activity associated with nurture, renewal and growth. When you sow a packet of spring onion seeds or transplant petunias into your patio tubs you are encouraging new life.
Growing your own fruit and veg means you are creating a healthy lifestyle for your family. When we harvest our blueberries or dig our potatoes the reward centre in our brain produces Dopamine, a slight euphoric, which is triggered by the sight and smell of picking the fruit and veg. There’s a great joy when you pick that first ripe strawberry or the first portion of runner beans. This is akin to that felt when you take the first batch of cheese scones from the oven or have a morning’s retail therapy at Rushden Lakes. It is thought that the release of Dopamine and the rewarding feeling it produces was probably experienced by our hunter gatherer ancestors when they found their food. The release of this endorphin encourages repeat activity because it makes you feel rewarded and so it is self-perpetuating.
A natural way of keeping depression at bay is to get your hands dirty. By not wearing gardening gloves and touching compost and soil with your bare hands promotes the release of Serotonin, the happy chemical. It is so called because along with Dopamine it helps to boost the immune system and put us in a good mood.
Planting the Patio Tubs with brightly coloured Bedding Plants and Bulbs enhances our surroundings inviting you to step outside and enjoy fresh air and some sun. Colour and perfume are great stimulators for positive thoughts. Studies have shown that by surrounding ourselves with flowers boosts our state of mind increasing feelings of happiness and joy. Colours like red orange yellow and pink denote laughter, white is bright cheerfulness and green foliage calms the anxious mind. Some flowers like orchids can be enjoyed in greenhouse where they increase the positive energy in their surroundings and are recommended for Feng Shui.
Patient studies showed that those allowed flowers in their rooms needed less pain relief, had lower blood pressure and pulse rates were less anxious and had a more positive attitude to recovery. What a shame NHS hospitals will not allow flowers in the wards.
When your skin is exposed to sunlight it produces Vitamin C which helps with calcium absorption to strengthen bones and the immune system. ALL GOOD STUFF
So have fun playing in the dirt, enjoy your freshly picked fruit and veg promoting that healthier lifestyle. Take a break from the computer screen and go out into your garden no matter how large and small. Pick up that trowel seek out the spade and secateurs start up the mower and discover for yourself why gardening is good for you.