Horticultural therapy: Why does gardening make me happy? [Statistics, Trends, Studies & Resources]

With the pandemic going on worldwide, many countries have left no choice but to implement a lockdown. Most of the businesses are closed, many activities are left halted leaving tons of people stuck at home with nothing to do.

According to YouGov study, Americans said they’ve been taking up baking (24%), gardening (19%), or DIY projects (17%) more frequently at home.

The surge in their gardening increase has brought up some constrains on the suppliers themselves.

Even seed companies are not able to keep up with the demands, due to “pandemic gardens” being grown for food.

Some may come to the conclusion that gardening is within reach for most people, which prompts the sudden increase.

Not to mention the countless benefits of having greens around your environment.

But first things first, who is Horticultural therapy for?

  • Elderly / Seniors
  • People struggling with mental health
  • Veterans
  • Students

The use of horticulture to improve the care of veterans took a large step forward during WWI.

Alleviate symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, such as agitation and aggressive behaviour, which can in turn improve circumstances for carers. (Source)

Horticultural Therapy for Anxiety and Depression (Sandiego Psychiatrist)

How Gardening Helps Me Redefine Perfection as Someone With OCD (The Mighty)

The Effects of Horticultural Therapy on Students Who Are At-Risk (ODU.edu)

Effects of Strength-Based Approach Horticultural Therapy on Primary Students’ Resilience (Research Gate)

A study by Söderback et al. (2004) looked at the rehabilitative value of horticulture in Sweden. The sample consisted of 46 participant‟s with brain damage who participated in horticultural group therapy. The researchers hypothesized that horticultural therapy influenced healing, alleviated stress, increased well-being, promoted participation in social life and re-employment for people with mental and physical illness. (Source)

The Rise of Green Prison Programs (Psychology Today)

 This study has provided robust evidence for the positive effects of gardening on health. A regular dose of gardening can improve public health. (Source)

Horticultural therapy program for improving emotional well-being of elementary school students (Science Direct)

Gardening helps our mental health. They should do more of it in jail. (The Guardian)

Gardening could be the hobby that helps you live to 100 (BBC)

Japan has a term, forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku.  The premise of it is simple: when a person visits a natural space and walks in a relaxed way, there are calming, rejuvenating, and restorative benefits to reap. (National Geographic)

So what are the benefits of Horticulture?

Gardening doesn’t just make your house look good but also do wonders for your own health. The physical aspect of it can help contribute to a healthier weight and blood pressure levels, while the interaction with flora can improve your mental health and mood.

Scientists prove that gardening positively affects our state of mind. Specifically, a 2016 meta-analysis looked at 22 studies on the mental health impact of gardening. The researchers looked at studies that compared gardeners and non-gardeners (the control group).

As a result, here are the outcomes among people who had their own gardens or helped out in community gardens:

  • Reductions in depression
  • Less anxiety
  • Increased life satisfaction
  • Better quality of life
  • Enhanced sense of community.

Scientist also discovered that gardening help reduce stress in individuals by decreasing the cortisol levels.

In one study, people performed a stressful task and then were randomly assigned to 30 minutes of outdoor gardening or indoor reading. Next, researchers measured the level of cortisol in their saliva. In addition, they asked them about their mood. Subsequently, the research team discovered that both gardening and reading decreased cortisol. However, the decreases were significantly stronger in the gardening group. (Source)

In a 2016 study, mice were inoculated with soil bacteria known as Mycobacterium vaccae. Subsequently, the neurons in their brains that produce serotonin were activated. This is significant because a lack of serotonin has been linked to depression. According to the study authors, “Data suggests that exposure to environmental microorganisms … may confer health benefits, including mental health benefits in subjects with stress-related psychiatric disorders, such as PTSD and major depression.” (Source)

Studies show that the nutrients in organic food are more powerful. Thus, gardeners who don’t use pesticides receive more mental (and physical) health benefits from the food they grow. (Newport Academy)

How does one get started with horticulture?

You’ve understand the health benefits attached to horticulture, you’re probably interested in how you can get started! Getting started is actually not as difficult, you don’t need to be a green thumb … just start small. Below is a list of resources to help you get started.

10 basic gardening tips for beginners

Follow These 10 Steps to Start Your First Garden Off Right

How to Start a Gardening Business

How to Start an Organic Garden in 9 Easy Steps

Guide to Gardening at Home

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