Plants are essential for human well-being. Plants feed us, supply us with shelter, and in many cases, keep us warm and provide light. It should be no surprise that humans are inherently drawn to these essential beings. Researchers at the University of Florida set out to delve deeper into this relationship by looking at the potential benefits of gardening.
“Past studies have shown that gardening can help improve the mental health of people who have existing medical conditions or challenges,” said Professor Charles Guy, the primary investigator for the research. “Our study shows that healthy people can also experience a boost in mental well-being through gardening.”
The study participants were 32 physically and mentally healthy women between 26 and 49 years of age. Half the women gardened twice a week, while the other half participated in art-making sessions twice a week.
Professor Guy explained this approach: “Both gardening and art activities involve learning, planning, creativity and physical movement, and they are both used therapeutically in medical settings. This makes them more comparable, scientifically speaking, than, for example, gardening and bowling or gardening and reading.”
To access mental health, the women were asked to complete surveys that measured anxiety, depression, stress, and mood. As time passed, those who gardened had slightly less anxiety than those who made art.
The sample size is notably small, but the researchers hope the findings will inspire further studies with more participants.
“Larger-scale studies may reveal more about how gardening is correlated with changes in mental health,” said Guy. “We believe this research shows promise for mental wellbeing, plants in healthcare and in public health. It would be great to see other researchers use our work as a basis for those kinds of studies.”
Ultimately, it seems that gardening is one way to improve mental health. The researchers said that whatever the deeper reasons might be, many of the study participants left the experiment with a newly discovered passion.
“At the end of the experiment, many of the participants were saying not just how much they enjoyed the sessions but also how they planned to keep gardening,’” said Professor Guy.
This study is published in PLoS ONE.