8 physical and psychological health benefits of backyard gardening

The benefits of backyard gardening extend to your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Let’s find out how gardening can nourish your body and soul

Home or Backyard gardening concept / working with soil with bare hands

Modern technology has given a lot to mankind: longer life expectancy, ease of travel, and generally more comforts than our ancestors had. The convenience with which we can have almost anything we wish for at the snap of our fingers took more than a few decades to accomplish. But these conveniences come at a heavy price. With the pace of urbanisation and modernisation increasing, we have progressively lost our intrinsic connection with nature. If you are thinking that connection to nature isn’t all that important, think again. There are established therapeutic benefits—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual—of being in touch with our natural world.

Rediscover nature through backyard gardening

One way to re-establish contact with nature while continuing to live in urban areas is to start gardening. Gardening is perhaps the easiest and the most convenient way to rediscover your connection with nature. You can plant a whole garden in your backyard or, if space is a constraint, you can start with your small balcony.

Although home gardening makes your house look beautiful and adds a different kind of charm to it, the benefits of gardening extend to your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Let’s find out how gardening can nourish your body and soul.

The health benefits of backyard gardening

1. Gardening is an excellent workout

Movement of the body is vital for good health and protects us from many diseases. Doctors and health experts recommend that for optimum health and fitness, one should exercise daily. However, running/walking outdoors or on a treadmill becomes monotonous and boring. Gyms too lose their attraction after a few days or weeks unless you are a fitness enthusiast.

The best thing about backyard gardening is that it doesn’t feel like a workout. It is an engaging activity that involves your body and mind. Plus, it not monotonous at all. Because it is done outdoors, you are inhaling fresher air. Almost your entire body gets a workout in the different aspects of gardening: tilling the soil, removing weeds, planting new seeds, watering the plants, plucking fruits, adding fertilisers, and so much more. Backyard gardening is a fun way to make your kids exercise as they don’t even realise that they are working out.

2. It encourages healthy eating

Backyard gardening offers you the opportunity to grow your own food. When you start eating food produced in your own little home garden, you will feel a different kind of satisfaction. Plus, Unlike commercially grown fruits and veggies, the food you grow in your backyard garden is free of harmful chemicals and pesticides. The effort you put into growing your own food will help you appreciate the value of nourishment which packaged foods are devoid of.

Health benefits of gardening: harvesting tomatoes in your home garden
Unlike commercially grown fruits and veggies, the food you grow in your backyard garden is free of harmful chemicals and pesticides

3. Your home garden is a source of fresh air

Plants and trees inhale carbon monoxide and exhale oxygen and are nature’s very own air purifiers. Fresh, clean air is becoming a rarity in urban areas, with pollution levels threatening to cause widespread disease. Along with plants that give fruits and vegetables, you can choose a few that are known for their air-purifying properties. Tulsi (basil) and snake plant are two popular options.

4. Gardening boosts your immunity

Studies have established that exposure to microbes present in soil boosts the immune system. The presence of certain organisms and environmental factors provides the immune system with information it needs to function. The exposure to sunlight helps the body produce vitamin-D, which too helps in improving your immune system besides a host of other benefits.

The benefits of backyard gardening on mental health

The benefits of home gardening extend beyond physical health; gardening is known to be great for your psychological health too. Here are a few ways in which backyard gardening can help boost your mental and emotional wellbeing.

1. Backyard gardening can help you combat everyday stress

We are facing a stress epidemic in the world today and gardening helps us combat this menace. A study conducted in The Netherlands established that gardening led to significant decrease in the stress hormone cortisol as compared to other leisure activities such as reading.

An hour tending to your garden is much better than watching a movie or taking a walk. Since gardening activities are mostly carried out outdoors during the day, you get exposure to sunlight, which helps ease Seasonal Affective Disorder [SAD], a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. There is also evidence that soil contains a microbiome that works as an antidepressant.

2. Gardening cultivates a sense of responsibility and patience

We live in a fast-paced world with all the conveniences delivered right at our doorstep 24/7, 365 days a year. In an era of instant messengers and food delivery apps, we have forgotten that patience is a virtue. Gardening helps us rediscover the beauty of slow and steady. Because nurturing plants requires us to give all our attention—right from the moment we sow the seed—gardening cultivates in us a sense of responsibility and patience. These, in turn, help us cope with life’s challenges better.

3. It helps manage anger and lessens agitation

Gardening can help calm your nerves and release your anger or agitation. Physical activities such as digging, ploughing and de-weeding help discharge any negative emotional charge you might carry back from work or face at home due to any number of reasons. Bring out your shovel and get to work; cut a few buds or trim the grass. Attend to the needs of your garden and soon you will regain your composure which, in turn, will help you see your situation in a better light.

Also read » Pluck and cook

4. Gardening connects us to nature

Modern technologies have its advantages but one of its more serious drawbacks is that we have lost our connection to nature and that has had a detrimental effect on the human psyche. The life force that powers us is the same life force that flows through all of Nature. Backyard gardening can help reconnect us with Nature and recognise how intrinsically we are connected. When we start gardening, we feel a sense of oneness with the whole of existence, and that helps expand our perspectives of living and relating with everyone and everything.

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Grazilia Almeida-Khatri
Dr Grazilia Almeida-Khatri is a homoeopath, expert yoga teacher and a wellness coach. She endorses yoga as a way of life and conducts yoga retreats for individuals and corporates. She is also trained in Pilates by Michael King, who is based in the UK. Dr Grazilia is a practitioner of the Body Mirror System of healing as taught by Sir Martin Brofman. She lives in Mumbai and offers consultations in person and also on Skype.
Shraddha Thakur
Shraddha Thakur, a graduate from Amity University is a passionate content creator who likes to produce informative and engaging content related to health and lifestyle. When not doing that, you can find her trying different kinds of organic food and herbal teas.

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