Vegetable Gardening as Therapy.

Gardening is more than a hobby; it’s a scientifically proven anti-depressant.  No wonder you like to dig in the dirt!  

Very large garden full of raised beds with cedar mulch pathways, blonde woman crouched with wicker basket gathering lettuce.

Vegetable gardening is my therapy. I don’t mean that in a lighthearted, print it on a tee shirt with a picture of a dancing beet kind of way. I mean, for real, no joke, gardening is my therapy.

Some people will look at this photo and all they’ll see is work.  Others?  Just looking at a garden calms us.

I can’t even explain to you how or why gardening is therapeutic for me. It just is.  I go to my garden and I feel better. Even if I’m already feeling pretty good.  It doesn’t make any difference what I’m doing there. I could be weeding, lugging soil, building planter beds or just walking around to check on things … they all make me feel … better.

And I’m not the only one who feels this way. Gardening (vegetable or not) is proven to be an effective method of improving mental health. There are genuine scientific reasons for this, like the fact that gardening reduces stress by decreasing the production of cortisol. I have no idea why this is such a good thing but it is. Scientific people, who wear lab coats and stuff, say so.

Gardening Gets Us Out of Our Heads.

Apparently, gardening in a community garden is especially good for anyone who has anxiety, depression or emotional pain. This is because gardening forces us to focus on the external world; things like dirt, bugs, the sun, and seeds.  This, as opposed to internal things like worries, pain, and what to watch next on Netflix.

Gardening is Exercise

Community gardening also brings us together with other people (being social has huge mental health benefits) and gets us exercising, which is a mood enhancer unless the exercise you’re doing is running, which everyone knows is the number 3 torture technique in the world falling just behind watching someone eat pizza when you can’t have any, and listening to a child play the recorder.

If you haven’t seen it before, this is my 40′ x 40′ community mental health facility.  I mean garden.

Gardening is officially one of the best things you can do for your mental health. The only people this isn’t true for, are people who genuinely hate gardening. You know, weirdos.

Tranquil shot of gardener's hand holding sprinkler, watering large vegetable garden in the late afternoon.

But really.  What IS it that is so relaxing about gardening?  Why does it  make us feel good? For me I know a lot of it has to do with being outside.  I did a bit of research into this and found the same quote over and over again.

“Nature Calms Us.”

O.K.  Fine.  But WHY does nature calm us.  Why nature and not … an Ikea warehouse for example?

I gave it a lot of thought and I think I have one of the answers.

We can’t control nature.  We can’t budge it, change it or buy it.   If you’re in your house your thoughts are probably  bouncing around from “I need to do laundry” to “I want to try the couch against the other wall” to “Why does everyone leave their shoes directly in front of the door?”.  These are all things you feel like you need to deal with at some point.

That doesn’t happen in nature.  You’re rendered … decisionless.  When’s the last time you went on a walk in the forest or a field and decided it needed a little rearranging.  Maybe a row of Billy bookcases.  It isn’t an option so you don’t even think about it. In nature you completely give up control.  And the need to control things is what causes a LOT of stress. Giving up that control is incredibly calming.

Of course in vegetable gardening you’re constantly trying to control everything from bugs to blight but that ruins my point so let’s ignore that.

Gardening is Nurturing.

Gardening at its most basic level is taking care of living things that don’t barf on you.  Win win.  This makes gardening especially good for people who don’t have pets, kids or spouses around to take care of.  It’s human nature to nurture things.  And then eat them.  With butter.

Is gardening your therapy? If not, what is?  I mean other than an actual therapist, because you need something in addition to that.  Something cheaper.

If you DON’T have something maybe we need to talk about a gardening challenge this spring so you can see if you might just be missing out on some great therapy.

Have a good weekend!


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  1. LizS says:

    I LOVE this article. And I love to garden, too. But my real therapy is cooking — long, complicated projects are the best. I find being in the kitchen, chopping and sauteing meditative. Most people look at my weirdly when I admit that.

  2. Carrie says:

    What a great word to describe gardening…..”calming”. That is indeed what I felt looking at the photo,and a little jealousy. Lol
    I fractured my knee,my leg and ankle and now have a lot of hardware (think bionic woman……oops I’m dating myself….lol) almost 2 years ago and I really wonder if I’ll garden again? Anyone that knows me understands how devastating this is for me. I didnt just garden but I can,pickle, make sauce etc. I start a lot from seed in my greenhouse.
    I love to watch things grow and give most of it away. Like you say, most people see work but I see joy! I remind myself this when I’m battling flea beetles and larvae from cabbage moths… know… control.😁
    This past year I was so down about it my hubby planted pumpkins right outside our bedroom window so I could watch them grow.
    Anyway, I hope to one day be steady and flexible enough to get back to my happy place.
    Enjoy that beautiful garden Karen!
    Take nothing for granted because you never know.🌻🌻🌻🌻

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