I work with numerous folks that garden, either with vegetable gardens or showy landscapes. These folks do it for several reasons. I admire them for their effort and for their results, both direct and indirect.
I know that gardening has several benefits because I have seen these benefits in countless others.
Physically, gardening helps keep your body strong and active. The bending, stooping, picking up and pushing a wheelbarrow will keep muscles going and growing. Even if you’re young and strong, you can up your efforts to do more of the physical labor and rely less upon tillers and wheelbarrows and more upon brute strength.
Being outside increases your exposure to sunshine. While I am no nutritional expert, you can find many articles touting the benefits of vitamin D. Indeed, you can buy vitamin D in a pill at the pharmacy, but why not get it naturally? Of course, wear your hat and sunglasses, but allow yourself to benefit enormously from all the natural nutrient boost that vitamin D offers.
Mentally, gardening provides challenges for your mind. Planning, maintaining and problem-solving that occurs in any gardening endeavor requires mental effort. As you look for the relationships between your practices and results, there is an enormous amount of cognitive work that is involved. Research has shown mental work helps fight against aging. Gardening is one activity that has been shown to reduce risk of dementia by more than 30%.
Emotionally, gardening stimulates serotonin and dopamine, hormones that increase the well-being of everyone who gets a “dose” of these hormones. Got a lot on your mind? A session of planning will get your mind working on something productive. Have a lot of weeds to remove? This mindless project will give you the chance to solve two problems at once — eliminating the weeds and solving the problems on your mind.
Socially, you can participate in landscaping or gardening efforts alongside others or for the benefit of others. The desire to be needed can easily be solved when you garden for others. A gardener who brings their excess fresh tomatoes and flowers to their neighbors is a sure way to win any popularity contest.
Gardening makes a person more aware of the rhythms and changes of our natural environment. Understating how the temperatures and rainfall affect your garden as well as the local flora is crucial to being a successful gardener. You may watch a talking head on the TV talk about global warming, but you know exactly what is happening right outside your back door in your own climate.
I’ve even seen the spiritual realm as part of this conversation. What was man’s first occupation? A gardener. Why is it that no matter how you plant a seed, the roots know which way to grow, and the leaves know which way is up? You can see patterns in our creation and a grand design that provide a larger perspective in our world. Reading the Bible, you’ll have a much better appreciation of so many stories as many are based on agricultural (gardening) principles.
Yes, gardening can give you sore muscles and blisters. Yes, you will frequently be disappointed with a bug infestation or a disease. Yes, it will take some up-front expenses. But when you taste that first home-grown tomato, the rewards are abundantly clear. Rewards that can be physical, mental, emotional, social and, perhaps, even spiritual.