Planting Your Way to Better Mental and Physical Health


When it comes to promoting all-around health, gardening is the full package. It improves your mood, fitness, nutrition, cognitive functioning, and emotional well-being while remaining a highly rewarding way to spend your free time. Just ask your neighbor with the green thumb! Here's how to get the most out of gardening so you can enjoy the benefits too -- even if you've never planted a seed in your life.

Use Whatever Space You Have
Many assume that you need a large space to grow a garden, but, you can still enjoy many benefits of gardening with a container garden on your porch or balcony. For apartment dwellers in urban centers, surrounding yourself with a bit of greenery like this can reduce stress and lower blood pressure. Growing fresh produce will also help you avoid harmful pesticides from store-bought veggies. Plus, freshly picked veggies have higher levels of nutrients than those that have been sitting on grocery store shelves. Start with a few easy-to-grow plants like tomatoes, basil, lettuce, and spinach.

Burn Calories in the Garden
According to Peak Fitness, the activities involved in gardening burn as many as 200 to 400 calories an hour. Pruning, digging, planting, weeding, watering, and raking work different muscle groups, giving your body a well-rounded workout and improving your heart health through light aerobic activity. To get a beneficial workout from your gardening chores, make sure you keep at it for at least 30 minutes per day. Also, use manual tools instead of power tools to make the tasks more vigorous, such as pruning with shears instead of weed-whackers.

Physical activity is great for your mental health, but gardening has an added benefit. Being outside and close to nature provides cognitive rest for an overworked mind, reducing feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Plant a Tree for Your Mental Health
Many studies have demonstrated that living close to trees has a positive impact on physical and mental health by boosting positive feelings and promoting healing from physical ailments. In fact, simply walking in a wooded area can boost your cognitive performance when it comes to memory and performance. So, why not plant a tree?

The International Society of Arboriculture recommends planting trees in the fall or early spring before new growth starts to take place. Just make sure there are no pipes or power lines nearby before you start planting your tree. Dig a hole as deep as the root ball of your tree and about two to three times wider. Cut away any wires or baskets holding the tree’s roots and plant it in the hole. But don't plant it too deep - ensure you can still see the where the trunk expands at the base. Once your tree is planted (it should be straight from all angles), fill the hole by packing the soil firmly around the roots. Then, spread some mulch around the bottom of the tree and water it well. Make sure to water it at least once a week while it roots into the ground, and more in hot or windy weather.

Watch Your Posture
Although gardening is a great form of exercise, it can also result in strains and sprains. Avoid injury by sitting instead of kneeling while weeding and planting. If you do kneel, use cushioning to reduce strain and keep one leg up to reduce strain on your back. Use tools with padded and ergonomic handles to avoid hand cramps. Finally, pay attention to your posture while lifting heavy things such as bags of potting soil, fertilizer, or heavy watering cans.

Gardening is a hobby that anyone can pick up and excel at. In fact, as many as one in three American households grow food at home or in a community garden. So, get your hands dirty and start enjoying all the benefits that gardening can offer you! 

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