Gardens have been used in therapy at hospitals for thousands of years. In the early to mid-1800’s, Florence Nightingale, considered to be the founder of modern nursing, strongly supported green space to improve the surroundings for visitors, patients, and staff at English hospitals.
As urbanization began to consume more and more green space, the benefits of community gardens seem to disappear along with the flowers they contained. However, as healthcare systems swell beyond capacity worldwide, new attention has been focused on gardens and the act of gardening as a way to improve individual health.
Today, gardens can be grown in small, outdoor spaces. For individuals who live in city centers, community gardens are becoming popular. In fact, there almost isn’t anywhere you cannot grow a garden and reap the following benefits:
Build self-esteem – Growing a garden provides a sense of accomplishment. All your hard work pays off with beautiful blooming flowers or a delicious bounty of fruits and vegetables.
Reduce stress levels – Gardening requires some degree of focus and concentration. This helps shift your mind from stressful thoughts reducing pent up tensions both mentally and physically.
Improve your mood – Did you know there is a healthy bacteria in soil called M. vaccae that, when inhaled, increases levels of serotonin, which increases happiness and reduces anxiety.
Strengthen the heart – Digging holes and pulling weeds burns calories and when we burn calories, our heart works just a bit harder, strengthening one of your body’s most important muscles.
Grow your own food – Fresh fruits or vegetables from your own garden are nutrient rich without the herbicides or pesticides found on store bought produce.
Protect your memory – Physicians know exercise improves cognitive brain function with new evidence showing gardening also can spur growth in memory nerves in the brain.
Boost vitamin D levels – Vitamin D increases calcium levels, which in turn supports strong bones and immune systems.
The idea of gardening for health has recently caught the attention of the Royal College of Physicians. In a recent publication, evidence has been gathered suggesting exposure to plants and green space is beneficial to both mental and physical health. By improving a population’s overall health through gardening, healthcare systems become less stressed. In summary, not only is gardening good for you, it’s good for your community!