In a time like this, there are a few things that give more solace than watching a plant grow and thrive against all odds. Gardening can be particularly therapeutic when it seems like everything is outside of our control. That’s definitely been true for me. At the risk of sounding cliché, gardening helps keep me grounded. It calls me to be faithful and consistent in nurturing a living thing as it grows, even in the midst of adversity. Gardening has also helped me fight against my perfectionism. If there is a mishap with a plant I’m caring for, regardless of whether or not it’s my fault, I’m starting to recognize that it doesn’t help to dwell in the moment of frustration. I acknowledge the disappointment, but then adapt my approach to meet the needs of the plant. Admittedly, I’m not the best gardener in the world. I’m still trying to develop the patience and wherewithal to care for more than one plant at a time. I hope to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather, who has an illustrious tomato garden every year. Since my family and I aren’t sure when we’ll see my grandparents again because of COVID, we planted our own tomato plant to feel more united through gardening. Needless to say, with yet another cliché, gardening is at the root of how I understand myself and my family.
Considering how much gardening has shaped my wellness journey, I couldn’t help but wonder if gardening has been more explicitly linked to physical, emotional, and mental health improvements. Unsurprisingly, it has. Robust research connecting gardening to health benefits began in 2003, which, as far away as that seems, really isn’t that long in the sphere of institutional consideration. But even in this short period, there has been notable evidence of the positive correlation between gardening and better health outcomes. For example, a 2016 study conducted by the University of Tokyo did a comprehensive meta-analysis of 22 case studies about gardening from the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. All the case studies collectively depicted 76 comparisons between control and mental health treatment groups that utilize gardening. Across all of the comparisons, those who partook in gardening experienced statistically significant reductions of depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular dysfunction. The meta-analysis study overall concludes that a regular dose of gardening is good for public health in multiple cultural contexts.
So, if you are thinking of starting a garden, there are all kinds of incredible resources. Whether you want to grow plants indoors, glean inspiration from gardening gurus, or learn a bit more about how gardening has shaped other people's lives, I would highly recommend that you do the research. The aforementioned hyperlinks can help you get started. While I am still quite a bit of a baby gardener myself, I think that I'll be better and more intentional with it as I progress in life. If you’re unsure, I definitely think it’s something worth trying. I’d also suggest starting with a resilient succulent. They don’t require as much care as some more temperamental plants. There can be so much joy bought into your world by knowing that you are helping another living thing grow. I hope that gardening continues to be part of our communal dialogues in uplifting wellness in every echelon of society.