A study reveals that gardening can improve your mental health.
Many lifelong gardeners will tell you that the garden is their happy place. Many people could benefit from working with plants, even if they’ve never gardened before, according to a new study.
University of Florida researchers found that gardening activities reduced stress, anxiety, and sadness in healthy women who took gardening classes twice a week in a study published in the journal PLoS ONE. . None of the research participants had ever gardened.
“Previous studies have shown that gardening can help improve the mental health of people who have health problems or challenges. Our study shows that healthy people can also benefit from a boost in mental well-being through to gardening,” said Charles Guy, the study’s principal investigator and professor emeritus in the UF/IFAS Department of Environmental Horticulture.
An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the Department of Environmental Horticulture, UF College of Medicine, UF Center for Arts in Medicine, and UF Wilmot Botanical Gardens co-authored the paper. The study treatment sessions were held at the UF Wilmot Botanical Gardens.
The study included 32 women aged 26 to 49. All were in excellent health, meaning they had been screened for characteristics such as chronic health conditions, cigarette smoking and drug abuse, and had been prescribed medication for anxiety. or depression. Gardening activities were assigned to half of the participants, while painting sessions were assigned to the other half. The two groups met twice a week for eight weeks. The art group served as a point of comparison with the gardening group.
“Gardening and art activities involve learning, planning, creativity and physical movement, and both are used therapeutically in medical settings. This makes them more comparable, scientifically speaking, than, say, gardening and bowling or gardening and reading,” Guy explained.
During gardening sessions, participants learned how to compare and sow seeds, transplant different types of plants, harvest and taste edible plants. Participants in the art-making sessions learned techniques such as papermaking, printmaking, drawing and collage.
Participants completed a series of assessments measuring anxiety, depression, stress and mood. The researchers found that the gardening and art-making groups experienced similar improvements in their mental health over time, with gardeners reporting slightly less anxiety than art-makers.
Given the relatively small number of participants and the length of the study, the researchers were still able to demonstrate what medical clinicians would call the dosage effects of gardening – that is, how much gardening someone must do to see improvements in mental health. .
“Larger scale studies may reveal more about how gardening correlates with changes in mental health,” Guy explained. “We believe this research holds promise for mental well-being, plants in healthcare and public health. It would be great to see other researchers using our work as a basis for these kinds of studies.
The idea of using gardening to promote better health and well-being – called therapeutic horticulture – has been around since the 19th century.
But why does being surrounded by plants do us good? The answer could be found in the important role of plants in human evolution and the rise of civilization, explain the authors of the study. As a species, we may be naturally drawn to plants because we depend on them for food, shelter, and other means of survival.
Whatever the underlying reasons, many study participants left the experiment with a newly discovered passion, the researchers noted.
“At the end of the experiment, many participants were saying not only how much they enjoyed the sessions, but also how they planned to continue gardening,” Guy said.
Reference: “A randomized controlled pilot trial of group indoor gardening and art activities demonstrates therapeutic benefits for healthy women” by Raymond Odeh, Elizabeth RM Diehl, Sara Jo Nixon, C. Craig Tisher, Dylan Klempner, Jill K. Sonke, Thomas A. Colquhoun, Qian Li, Maria Espinosa, Dianela Perdomo, Kaylee Rosario, Hannah Terzi, and Charles L. Guy, July 6, 2022, PLOS ONE.