Monday Morning Blooms – Research about Gardening for Mental Health

Happy Monday Readers, 

It is time for Monday Morning Blooms. This time with a little research about why gardening is good for mental health. Many of us know this already (and linking to Trent’s weekly smile because gardening brings a smile) but there is empirical support for this garden and improved mental health connection. I had to make a video about this topic and thought I would share a few of the images I made for that.

Took this photo of a tree that was blooming a couple months ago. I thought the bloom looked a little like nerve fibers (or not) and so I paired this photo with the research study (Park et al., 2019) which looked at how gardening activities helped “brain nerve growth” for people 76 and older. Gardening activities in the study also had the social connections to gardening for seniors who needed that — but remember that gardening can be very individual too. So many ways to approach the garden. 
In this research study, yoga et al. (2017) examined previous studies and confirmed many of the claims about how gardening can help humans – with an overall takeaway that it can have a restorative impact on cognition. And remember that cognition is not just your thinking – it is your thinking processes – the reasoning the filters, the awarensss, the process, the clarity, the meta-cognition too – your thinking about your thinking. :0) – 
In this study, by Kaplan and Kaplan (back in 1989, wow ) remember that year so well. I was burned out and getting ready to visit Florida for the first time as a young college student. Anyhow, this research study presented human attention as either “direct” or “fascinated” – the direct mode was the working attention – when we “highlight” what we want to pay attention (with attentional blindness ignoring what has little meaning at the time). The direct attention is what we “knowledge workers” of today use so much. It is a great think to have a fun and rich mindset as our direct attention is used, but it can get overloaded. And that is where gardening can come in to allow for refreshment! The fascinated attention is the more indirect and passive attention that can come from “non-threatening” and more relaxing activities. Gardening can often allow for the fascinated attention to engage – as we water, observe a bee landing on a flower, and nurture a plant. Of course stress can come from gardening – when we have issues with plants or soil, when we need to make changes, etc – but the act of gardening can provide reprieve for a heavy cognitive load because it allows for a “flow” in thinking that can restore. Many readers know this – but others out there might need to get a few plants and get going to try this and see for yourself. 
The mind and body respond to gardening in positive ways. We can get physical exercise (depending on how much we do on our own); and the physical body benefits from connecting with the earth’s energy, from the fresh air and natural air, from the visual treats and the brain responds to nature in very positive ways (Ulrich et al,, 1983). Gardening can allow the parasympathetic nervous system to engage (that is the part of the system that is “rest, digest, feed, and breed”) and this helps your immune system and mood. Or it can…. 


Closing photos 

Blooms from a little “wildflower variety seed pack” I experimented with this year. Surprises emerged each week
More blooms from the wildflower seed pack. I like that bud in this shot..
Hey wait – these are NOT blooms – they are “balloons” – and this lackluster vibe reminded me how it feels to have a birthday or graduation right now. Still a little sad that we cannot congregate – but hopefully we are all helping the cause by doing our part with mindfulness. 

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References

Kaplan, R., & Kaplan, S. (1989), The experience of nature: A psychological perspective. Cambridge University Press.

Park, S., Lee, A., Park, H. G., & Lee, W. L. (2019). Benefits of gardening activities for cognitive function according to measurement of brain nerve growth factor levels. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health16(5), 760.

Soga, M., Gaston, K. J., & Yamaura, Y. (2017). Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis. Preventive Medicine Reports5, 92-99.

Ulrich, R.S. (1983). Aesthetic and affective response to natural environment, in Altman, I., and Wohlwill, J.F. (Eds), Human Behaviour and environment: Behaviour and the natural environment. Plenum Press, 85-125.

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Also joining in with Cee’s Flower of the Day

 

Happy Monday

P R I O R H O U S E 

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37 thoughts on “Monday Morning Blooms – Research about Gardening for Mental Health

  1. I have been so thankful for gardening lately! The first blooms remind me of Calliandra which is a tree that is growing wildly in our yard. Earlier this spring I started pruning and discovered 100’s of baby trees that had spread. I started uncovering planters and parts of the yard that I didn’t even know existed!

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    1. Oh the joy of gardening is felt in your comment and the discovering of those saplings….
      And Alana, I do have other images of you that come to mind when I think of someone enjoying nature and connecting to the earth- 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not much of a gardener – maybe I should be 😉 Very nice photos. I have heard about some of the research (not the actual studies, but a little about the findings). Doing things outdoors helps, though I can see how that extra from gardening would help more than hiking or whatever. Are you going to post the video here?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Trent – I actually did not finish the video -ha!
      Well the original idea was tips for starting – and some of my personal experience with the garden!
      However – the research articles found me and so that was a side project that I will finish in August – I will share the video when I finish it
      And yes – this research looked at the connections of gardening – but we both know the outdoors – walking and biking and getting sunshine for vitamin d synthesis is also powerful!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know, it is a lot of things: the outdoors, the thoughtful yet mindless work, the nurturing and the physical positions, like squatting, all add up. Looking forward to seeing the video when it is finished.

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  3. I agreed with you “we are all helping the cause by doing our part with mindfulness.”. Good words during the time we need everyone helping hands.

    I think people also do not mention our mental health is to be addressed at the same time too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi YC
      You are so right about noir enough mention of the mental health right now
      We have the mask nazis – the news fatigue – and the worry!
      And so while we do need to do our part – people also need to find ways to take some of the heavy load off their backs and help their immune system not get suppressed
      Wishing you a great day

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Di, start with a container or two – maybe some mint or parsley and some vinca
      the key is to start small
      🙂
      and merci for the nice comment
      hope you are having a nice summer

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So I’ve been told when it comes to starting. It’s just that I realize I don’t have the will/energy for it at the moment. I’ve been thinking of doing herbs, though, but when the time is right.

        Thank you, Yvette and you’re welcome. I’m having fantastic rainy weather! How’s summer on your side of the world?

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    1. Thanks for the comment!
      And you know – you and Trent both reminded me that being outside and in nature is also mental health supportive – so cheers to those who do not garden but are able to enjoy gardens and get outside to help their physical and mental health

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Rita and those trees enamored me – I never would have seen them had it not Been for alternative walking plans due to the pandemic –
      And I like the term “stress buster”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Gardening has always been a huge stress relief factor. And gardening makes me smile. The tree with the bloom like brain nerves is a Mimosa tree. Very prominent in the south during spring. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yvette, what wonderful connections you have made. I have long believed that gardening and mental health were linked – and now you’ve given us proof. We sold our big house last year – with its big garden – and wondered if I’d miss it. So, at our new little place, I planted several large container gardens on our deck and they’re doing great. I’m happy, and my mental health is flourishing. 🙂 ~Terri

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    1. Thanks for adding your comment because you provided a perfect example on how we can adapt and find what we need with each new season!
      And how wonderful the containers and smaller version has been so enriching – and helps you not miss the garden at the former house –
      And your comment reminded me of the “spring in our step” we get from nurturing some plants! New every day

      Liked by 1 person

  6. We all know that flowers make us happy, but smarter ? Great, I’ll show this post to my husband when he complains about my constant additions to the flowerbeds.
    Also got a kick out of the shriveled balloons. I think thats how we all feel lately – kind of tired and not as peppy as we should be.

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  7. This is such an informative post, Y. Gardening is probably one of the most underrated activities. For a nice garden to grow and flourish, it needs a lot of attention and care. It is interesting to read it can stimulate brain nerve growth. Part of gardening is about nurturing things to grow, and another part of it is maintenance. There are so many forms of it, from trimming weeds to mowing the lawn to watering blooming flowers and planting new seeds – each of them like an art.

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