Gardening Can Lift Your Mood Even if You’ve Never Done it Before and Have No Mental Health Issues

University of Florida

There’s a deep satisfaction that arises from tending a garden, so deep that it can enliven even those who don’t need to be, and even those who don’t know how, a new study shows.

A pilot, randomized-controlled trial of indoor group-based gardening courses were compared with art classes as way to see if the moods of healthy women with no history of prescriptions for depression or anxiety could be improved.

It’s not everyday a study looks at healthy women with no symptoms of anxiety, depression, or mood swings, but if an effect can be observed scientifically where the margin for improvement is the slimmest, that suggests robust potential for those in whom the margin for improvement is much larger.

“Therapeutic horticulture,” Univ. of Florida press pointed out has been used since the 19th century.

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“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 wellbeing through gardening,” said Charles Guy, principal investigator on the study from the University of Florida.

Thirty-two women aged 26-49 participated in either the art group, involving printmaking or drawing, or the gardening group, which involved learning about how to sow seeds, transplant different kinds of plants, taste even edible plants.

“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 explained.

Both groups demonstrated a small increase in mood, with gardening improving feelings of anxiety a more so than art. Both also demonstrated dose dependency—the more they gardened or drew, the greater the perceived therapeutic effect.

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Why gardening might have this effect is anyone’s guess. Humans have been interacting on a very sophisticated level with plants for millions of years, long into our previous evolutionary forms. The development of horticulture and agriculture changed our society forever, and studies have shown that leaf-green as a color is soothing to the mind.

Whatever the reason may be, the participants not only said how much they enjoyed the gardening courses, but how they plan to continue growing long past the end of the study.

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