Working with plants may give your mental health a boost, even if you’ve never gardened before.

In a new study, researchers found that gardening activities lowered stress, anxiety, and depression in healthy women who attended twice-weekly gardening classes. None of the study participants had gardened before.

“Past studies have shown that gardening can help improve the mental health of people who have existing medical conditions or challenges. Our study shows that healthy people can also experience a boost in mental well-being through gardening,” says Charles Guy, principal investigator on the study and a professor emeritus in the environmental horticulture department at the University of Florida.

The study in PLOS ONE included 32 women between the ages of 26 and 49. All were in good health, which for this experiment meant screening for factors such as chronic health conditions, tobacco use, and drug abuse, and having been prescribed medications for anxiety or depression.

The idea of using gardening to promote better health and well-being—called therapeutic horticulture—has been around since the 19th century.

Researchers assigned half of the participants to gardening sessions, while the other half were assigned to art-making sessions. Both groups met twice a week for a total eight times. The art group served as a point of comparison with the gardening group.

“Both gardening and art activities involve learning, planning, creativity, and physical movement, and they are both used therapeutically in medical settings. This makes them more comparable, scientifically speaking, than, for example, gardening and bowling or gardening and reading,” Guy says.

In the gardening sessions, participants learned how to compare and sow seeds, transplant different kinds of plants, and harvest and taste edible plants. Those 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 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 evidence of what medical clinicians would call the dosage effects of gardening—that is, how much gardening someone has to do to see improvements in mental health.

“Larger-scale studies may reveal more about how gardening is correlated with changes in mental health,” Guy says. “We believe this research shows promise for mental well-being, plants in health care, and in public health. It would be great to see other researchers use our work as a basis for those 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 around plants make us feel good? The answer might be found in the important role of plants in human evolution and the rise of civilization, the researchers explain. As a species, we may be innately attracted to plants because we depend on them for food, shelter, and other means of our survival.

Whatever the deeper reasons might be, many of the study participants left the experiment with a newly discovered passion, the researchers note.

“At the end of the experiment, many of the participants were saying not just how much they enjoyed the sessions but also how they planned to keep gardening,” Guy says.

Additional coauthors are from the University of Florida the Wilmot Botanical Gardens, which also hosted all the study treatment sessions.

Source: University of Florida

Topics #Alternative #Beauty #Health Care #Medicine #Popular Diets