blog header 9.22.jpg
  • Heather Davis

Gardens, Plants & Nature: Proven Well-being Remedy for Mind, Body & Soul

A reconnection to the natural world is fundamental to human health, well-being, spirit, and survival.” ― Richard Louv

Don’t let the malls, all the concrete and the ubiquitous screens fool you. We are designed deep down for connection to the natural world. Since we’ve been on the planet, humans have used plants for food, medicine and shelter. But the healing properties go well beyond ingestion.

Research has found that the simple interaction between person and plant - both access to greenspace and through gardening - is a key to mental and physical well-being.

The health of communities and the people they serve have been directly tied to the availability of natural and outdoor environments. Studies show that gardens, parks and farmers markets play a vital role in wellness.

A comprehensive review of studies (Soga et al.) explored the broad positive impact that exposure to plants and gardening has on our overall health. Access to greenspace and plants has been found to be so beneficial, that it’s been heralded - by both social scientists and medical professionals alike - as something close to a cure-all.

We may be stuck inside for a while but a garden is what you make it. For some, it’s a garden box of vegetables or a hillside of wildflowers; for others, a small planter box or a motley crew of small plants in a windowsill.

Whether inside or out: the power of the plant can be especially helpful these days.

Medicine for a pandemic

“We may think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it’s our garden that is really nurturing us.” — Jenny Uglow

Whether walking in a forest or potting a plant, the interaction and relationship with nature helps reduce psychological stress and alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Nature helps to slow us down, and to breathe through difficult times. Natural settings can help us deal with unpredictability and support our peace of mind and acceptance of things we have little control over.

Connecting with nature has shown to improve mood and increase levels of optimism for the future. It also promotes a growth-mindset and fuels our perseverance. All helpful things in the midst of a pandemic and an uncertain future ahead.

Time in nature is not leisure time; it's an essential investment in our children’s health (and also, by the way, in our own).Richard Louv

Tending to a garden can be especially valuable for kids who might be spending even more time on screens these days while at home.

Time in natural spaces helps heal technology’s damage

Research shows that all the screen time, coupled with an increasing lack of time spent in nature is really doing a number on the attention span, ability to focus and brain health for young and no-longer-young alike.

Electronic immersion, without a force to balance it, creates the hole in the boat - draining our ability to pay attention, to think clearly, to be productive and creative.”Richard Louv

Richard Louv coined the term ‘nature-deficit disorder’ in his book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. In it, Louv asserts how lack of access to nature has contributed to behavioral issues and health problems in children.

Close to a thousand studies over the past 15 years have more than backed him up. Research shows that the growing lack of contact with the natural world is responsible for growing attention-span issues, increased rates of obesity and emotional disorders. It’s even linked to a decreased use of our senses.

Human devolution, right in front of our eyes.

Our brain thrives in natural surroundings

In the U.S., an estimated 6.1 million children have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the CDC.

Natural spaces have been shown to help with concentration for kids with these disorders, including significantly reducing the symptoms of ADHD and aiding concentration that helps in learning.

For tech-addicted adults, gardening and greenspace also strengthen our ability to focus. They improve our creative-thinking and problem-solving abilities. In fact, time in the garden and in nature feeds healthy brain functioning throughout our lifetime, including being associated with lower rates of dementia later on.

Time spent in a garden benefits our bodies as well as our minds.

Physical health benefits

It’s no surprise that the majority of Americans aren’t eating their fair share of fruits and veggies. The CDC’s State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables (2018) show that only 12% of American adults are getting their daily recommended fruit intake and less than 10%, of suggested vegetables.

Kids are eating even less.

For children, exposure to fresh foods grown in their own or a community garden, can establish a pattern of nutritious eating and the rewards of a healthy body that comes along with it.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg lettuce:

Gardening has shown to help lower our blood pressure as well as our body mass. It reduces the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease – aka those perilous ‘underlying conditions,’ sadly exacerbating the devastating toll of coronavirus.

The benefits of the garden begin even before the bounty.

Working even a small plot of space can be a workout. Studies at Harvard Medical School examined how 30 minutes of gardening activities can burn 135 calories for a 125-lb. individual. Gardening also helps develop strength and motor skills.

Beyond the physical, the psychological advantages of time in the garden help undo the damage of an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and the hours of life devoured by screens.