Do you have any experience in gardening? People who love the gardening claim that growing their own plants make them relaxed and released from their stresses. So, does gardening relieve stress? Is there any scientific evidence proving it right or wrong? The short answers to these two questions are yes and yes.
Gardening could be an effective stress reliever
There are many researchers investigating whether gardening can reduce stress or not. Many of the studies have shown that it could be a stress reliever.
For example, according to a health research study by Wageningen University in The Netherlands, the stress level of
the participants decreased both significantly and instantly after doing 30 minutes of outdoor gardening (1). During the study, the participants had to perform a stressful task and thus their recorded stress level became high. After that, some of the participants were assigned to do the gardening after finishing the task. The researchers then found that their recorded stress level kept decreasing when they were doing the gardening and the level dropped back to normal after 30 minutes of outdoor gardening.
Gardening could even help those who have stress-related ill health such as burnout. As reported by occupational therapists from Karolinska Institutet, one of the largest and most prestigious medical universities in the world, in Sweden, all five participants, who are women with stress-related ill health, felt the therapeutic garden relaxing and thought the garden could help to connect their experiences from rehabilitation in the garden to everyday life (2).
How gardening relieves your stress
Some of you may wonder why and how gardening reduces your stress. Actually, there are also some studies trying to sort out why people can relieve their stress by gardening. Some researchers explain this from the psychological point of view.
As reported by Cardiff Metropolitan University, doing allotment gardening can somehow distract you from your bad mood and thinking about the stressful events you have (3). Because you concentrate on and thus are immersed in the task at your hand, which is gardening in this case (3).
You go over there, you work for a couple of hours, and you forget all about it. I think if you have got something niggling inside you then yeah going over and doing a bit of hard digging sort of works off the frustration.
– Simon who was one of the participants in “Doing” gardening and “being” at the allotment site: exploring the benefits of allotment gardening for stress reduction and healthy aging (3)
The allotment is quiet, and everybody just gets on with their work there, it’s quite, sort of, peaceful, no stress involved really. Very Relaxing. You can work at your own rate, you’re not being pressurised to get something finished. You can be there on your own and be in your own little world, nobody to hassle you.
– Jack who was one of the participants in “Doing” gardening and “being” at the allotment site: exploring the benefits of allotment gardening for stress reduction and healthy aging (3)
Also, you will be happy when you see the things that are planted by you growing. Because you have the feelings of achievement when something works, a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment that results in other good feelings such as being pleased with yourself (3).
When everything starts to grow, it’s probably one of the best feelings in the world—to know that three months before it was barren earth, now it’s full of crops, that’s a satisfaction. It looks nice down there as well; it looks like my mind’s eye’s picture of what an allotment should look like. I’m very pleased with it at the moment.and with myself.
– Jane who was one of the participants in “Doing” gardening and “being” at the allotment site: exploring the benefits of allotment gardening for stress reduction and healthy aging (3)
Apart from being satisfied by observing your plants growing, you will also be satisfied by confirming yourself that you have skills and expertise to make things happen (3). You will feel happy as well when others compliment your effort and achievement in gardening (3).
We just sit on my bench and have a bit of a chat and just enthuse over how clever I am ‘cos I’ve grown such nice things. And the old gardeners help the new gardeners and there’s always somebody willing to give you a few of these plants in exchange for some of those you’ve done better. You swap produce and you exchange.
– Jane (3)
Outdoor gardening is better than indoor one
Do you notice that my post focuses on allotment gardening instead of indoor gardening? The reason why I do this is you can gain more benefits from outdoor gardening than the indoor one.
First, it is obvious that you are more physically active while doing outdoor gardening compared to the indoor one. Doing physical exercise and being fit are good for stress reduction. For more information, you can read my previous post.
Second, you can breathe in fresh air and enjoy the beautiful natural landscape. By being in the outdoor natural environment and seeing wildlife and plant, you will have a feeling of appreciation. Also, being in the sunshine when outdoors may be related to increases in serotonin levels, which improves your mood (3).
Third, it is also obvious that you can make new friends and interact each other at the allotment site. Social interaction and support are good for reducing your stress.
But this stress reliever may not suitable for everyone
For some people, gardening is better than other stress relievers. According to the same health study by Wageningen University, allotment gardeners reduced their stress quicker by doing gardening when compared to reading (1). This means that gardening will be an effective stress reliever for you if you like gardening or you are used to doing it.
But, for some people, gardening may not be a better stress reliever than others. As reported by another research group from Wageningen University, younger allotment gardeners liked passive relaxation such as meditation more when compared to gardening (4).
Everyone have different preferences on their own effective stress relievers. Some stress relievers work on some people while the same relievers may not work on others. If you don’t mind digging and getting your hands dirty, then gardening may be an effective stress reliever for you. If you like nature, you should consider gardening too. Because observing your plants growing gives you a feel of satisfaction. If you want to try gardening now, you can read my another post to start your gardening!
1 Van Den Berg AE, Custers MH. Gardening promotes neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress. Journal of Health Psychology. 2010 Jun 3.
2 Eriksson T, Westerberg Y, Jonsson H. Experiences of women with stress-related ill health in a therapeutic gardening program. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy. 2011 Dec 1;78(5):273-81.
3 Hawkins JL, Mercer J, Thirlaway KJ, Clayton DA. “Doing” gardening and “being” at the allotment site: exploring the benefits of allotment gardening for stress reduction and healthy aging. Ecopsychology. 2013 Jun 1;5(2):110-25.
4 Van den Berg AE, van Winsum-Westra M, De Vries S, Van Dillen SM. Allotment gardening and health: a comparative survey among allotment gardeners and their neighbors without an allotment. Environmental Health. 2010 Nov 23;9(74):1-2.