Are you aware that growing your own food enhances your happiness? Around one in three households in America grow food at home or in a community garden, according to the National Gardening Association. This hobby has taken on revolutionary proportions, with more people – particularly young people – finding joy in consuming pesticide-free, delicious, nutritious food that feeds the mind as much as it does the body. Horticultural therapy is a revered hobby in many rehabilitation settings—including centers for persons with Alzheimer’s and those in drug recovery. How can it help you in your everyday life?
How Growing Your Own Food Enhances Happiness
Gardening Battles Stress
A study by researchers at Texas A&M University found that being in the presence of plants reduces stress in hospitals and healthcare facilities. Greenery has also been found to reduce tension in schools and even boost work performance in offices. In another study at the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS), scientists found that indoor horticultural activities relieved stress, reducing cortisol levels and improving heart rate variability. Growing your own food also gives you a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Gardening as a Mindful Activity
Gardening is relaxing yet challenging all at once—which is perhaps what makes it so addictive. In the ASHS study, scientists noted that the combination of activities —including pressing flowers, creating arrangements, and making topiaries— had a calming effect on those taking part. Planting a vegetable garden, meanwhile, requires strategy and concentration. For instance, matching different plants together optimally to improve the condition and life of produce requires full focus but also wields long-term benefits that motivate and inspire.
Stimulating the Senses
If you watched the Matt Damon film, The Martian, then you know the defining moment that occurred when astronaut, Mark Watney, managed to grow his first potato crop in space. As stated by researchers at NASA/Johnson Space Center, the astronaut’s happiness isn’t just related to the physical nourishment his crop would be providing, but also to the sensory one. Essentially, one of the biggest risks to mental health and well-being that astronauts face is having limited access to sensory stimulation.
“Monotony of stimulation … can be a serious source of stress,” stated scientists, adding that gardening provides astronauts with “visual, tactile, and olfactory stimulation,” also providing ‘salivary stimulation ‘owing to the variety in flavors and textures of food grown. Researchers believe that astronauts who care for plants can potentially enjoy improvement in feelings of isolation, loneliness, and stress. In a sense, plants in space provide similar effects to those that a pet might do at home. Growing plants provide a sense of movement and growth in a world in which everything can seem still.
As novice gardeners become more confident in their skills, they can set increasingly bigger goals, which can have a positive effect on their self-confidence. For instance, those with a small garden can experiment with newer systems such as hydroponics or aeroponics. They can begin to rotate produce grown and set new harvesting goals. This can lead to an immense sense of satisfaction as new goals are achieved.
Gardening is considered an important therapy, but it is also a powerful way to reduce stress among members of the general population. From seniors with dementia to youths in rehabilitation centers and even astronauts, gardeners are enjoying the mental benefits of this enjoyable hobby. Horticultural pursuits can also play an important role in self-improvement, enabling people to feel more confident in their ability to try out and excel at new pursuits.
So while you are eating that sun-ripened tomato that is sweet and juicy and tastes like a tomato, think about all the other benefits you get from growing your own food in your garden, whether it is in pots on your patio, in your yard or at the neighborhood gardening spot.
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