The Benefits of Gardening

Happy Spring! Did you know gardening can improve your entire family’s mental health? Keep reading for some great tips on improving your mood, simply by getting outside!

Happy Spring!  Did you know gardening can improve your entire family’s mental health?  Keep reading for some great tips on improving your mood, simply by getting outside!

Here are seven science-backed health reasons to get outside right now:

1. Increases physical activity

We move more when we’re outdoors. We take more steps and explore our surroundings. In fact, Statistics Canada reports that every hour spent outdoors is associated with seven more minutes of heart-pumping physical activity, taking 762 more steps and spending 13 fewer minutes being sedentary.

2. Lowers blood pressure

Studies from the Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences found that in comparison to city environments, getting a 30-minutedose of nature can lower your pulse and blood pressure.

3. Provides access to improved air quality

Air quality indoors is often worse than outdoors. In fact, spending large amounts of time indoors increases exposure to infectious diseases and common allergens (like pet dander and dust), and may even lead to the development of chronic respiratory conditions.

4. Harnesses improved social interaction

Being outdoors enhances our desire to seek and enhance social connections. Improved social interactions help fend off excessive feelings of loneliness while boosting mental wellness more generally.

5. Boosts moods

Forests and natural environments are considered therapeutic landscapes and have demonstrated many positive psychological effects. In fact, a recent study published in Public Health found that exposure to forests and trees led to increased liveliness, and decreased levels of stress, hostility and depression.

6. Benefits immunity

Breathing in the wilderness tonic of essential oils from the trees, leaves and soil (aka phytoncides) helps improve immune system function. A study in Japan found that individuals showed significant increases in NK cell activity (i.e., cells that fight infections and aid in cancer prevention) in the week after a forest visit, and these positive effects lasted a month following each visit to the woods.

7. Decreases levelsof stress and anxiety

Increased exposure to the outdoors, including forested environments, has been shown to decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Being in nature can have a profound positive impact on a person’s sympathetic(i.e., fight-or-flight) and parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) nervous systems. Essentially, people feel less stressed and more rested. Interestingly, some doctors are even prescribing walking outdoors as part of their patients’ treatment plans for managing stress and anxiety.


We’re lucky to live in a time when mental health can be an open discussion and has less stigma, and if we need help, there are many options to pursue. Depression and anxiety are among the most common mental health issues many of us face. While there are several different forms of therapy and ways to feel better over time, one lesser-known treatment happens to be our favorite afternoon activity: gardening! As it turns out, spending time in the garden has powerful, proven benefits for our mental health and wellness.  

The Psychology of Gardening: How Cultivating Plants Benefits Your Brain

Don’t believe us? Here are some major breakthroughs in gardening and mental health, proven by leading psychologists and doctors.

Time Outside Improves Focus

All that time spent at your desk and staring at the computer isn’t good for your brain. Breaking up the work day with time in the garden can have fast-acting benefits. Being outside in nature and tending to your plants can clear brain fog and make it easier to focus on “deep work”—zeroing in on one major task at a time, devoting your full attention.

Studies have shown that gardening and playing outside can actually lessen the severity of ADHD symptoms. ADHD isn’t a lack of attention—it’s a dysregulation in attention due to lower dopamine levels in the brain. What’s a simple, natural way to get that feel-good chemical dopamine to surge in the brain? Gardening!

Developing a Growth Mindset

Psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck explains how people often have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset tend to view difficult situations negatively—for example, one might break their toe and exclaim that their whole summer is ruined because they can’t go swimming. People with growth mindsets tend to look at the positives—while you may not be able to swim with a cast, it’s an opportunity to finally read all those books you’ve been stacking up on the shelf.  

Training your mind to change the way you think about negative situations is a big part of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), and it’s an incredibly powerful practise for overcoming depression. Dr. Dweck says gardening is a fantastic way to put your growth mindset into practice. You may encounter garden pests, storms and floods, or other issues that may derail your progress, but every challenge you encounter is making you a better gardener, more able to overcome whatever curveballs life throws at you.

Measurable Mental Health Benefits

A Japanese study hooked up participants to an EEG and had them look at plants. They observed a significant reduction in stress, anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, and physical changes like reduced blood pressure, pulse rate, and muscle tension. Simply immersing yourself in greenspace has powerful effects on your wellness—it can even speed up healing after a surgical procedure!

It might sound too good to be true, but the benefits of contact with soil microbes are proven by science! Research shows that some soil microbes have effects comparable to Prozac—a common antidepressant medication. Time outside getting your hands dirty in the ground can help introduce beneficial microbes into your system. Plus, enjoying some bright sunshine and healthy garden veggies certainly doesn’t hurt!

Gardening is Exercise

Physical inactivity is a leading cause of a wide range of physical and mental illnesses. Gardening is an incredible way to move your body and stretch. Have you ever spent an afternoon pulling weeds? It’s like yoga!You crouch, bend, reach, and contort your body into shapes, strengthening your arms and core. It’s great for your body, and your brain—studies even show that gardening is more effective than walking or reading in preventing worsening dementia symptoms!


Gardening benefits your self-image, too! Spending time cultivating something beautiful, thriving, and unique is an incredibly rewarding experience. Nurturing plants helps ease that tension—we can let our guard down and embrace our soft side. There’s no need to be perfect while you garden, and perfectionism can have detrimental effects on our mental health. Just enjoy yourself, be mindful of your surroundings, and take time to enjoy the little things.



Did you know that Medicine Hat has more than one community garden for those residents unable to have a garden at home?  Please visit the Community Food Connections Association website for locations and details:  The Root Cellar also has community garden opportunities:

If you have any questions or would like additional information on mental health and self-care, please give our navigators a call at 403-526-7473 and we will happily help!