Roxanne and I bought six new horse troughs in the spring and turned them into raised garden beds. After caring for them all summer we are now starting to see the benefits of our efforts and are yielding a harvest of delicious vegetables. As wonderful as this is, the harvest is only a small part of what having a garden can do for you.
The soil is a living organism and I know from growing up on a farm that those who interact with it, care for it, produce food from it, and make something beautiful, increase their wellbeing.
I sat down with Karl Ebeling, also known as Farmer Karl, who founded Grow Life and has worked to help empower individuals through gardening. Grow Life gives foster children the opportunity to care for plants and a garden. Throughout Karl’s involvement with Grow Life, he has found that the children who participate in gardening, experience positive results such as increased confidence, gratitude, responsibility, and compassion.
As you involve your kids in gardening and yard work the benefits will far outweigh the difficulties. Here are five therapeutic benefits of gardening we discussed:
1. It Can Reduce Anxious Thoughts and Feelings
Gardening is a great way to relax your mind and help reduce stress and anxiety. According to Healthline, “Studies have found gardening and horticultural therapy can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve attention, interrupt harmful ruminations…lower cortisol [stress hormone], [and] increase overall life satisfaction.”
Caring for a garden provides a sense of responsibility, an opportunity to work with your hands, and something to look forward to every day that will provide something great down the road. It is also a grounding experience that connects you with the earth—which is a classic technique for calming anxiety. When combined with therapy or other doctor-recommended necessary treatments, gardening can be a game-changer for people who suffer from anxiety or depression.
2. It Promotes Connection to the Earth
Connecting with the earth is crucial for anyone, and gardening is one of the best ways to get that connection. When you’re gardening, you’re often on your hands and knees touching the dirt and plants. You connect with the earth on a literal level, and it can be a very healing and grounding experience.
3. It Fosters Connection and Healthy Relationships
Gardening in a group setting is even better than gardening alone. If you have a family, spouse, or group of friends, getting together to plant and care for a garden will strengthen your relationships and foster meaningful connections.
Karl recalls bringing his son to help a family member get their yard ready for a wedding reception. Because of his software development career, Karl\’s son worked on a computer every day and struggled with anxious feelings. There were many family members at the house helping with the yard work, and at the end of the day, he expressed that he felt uplifted.
Karl also shared a story about growing up in Pennsylvania, where he and a group of friends grew and sold produce. He says, “I will never forget the feeling that I had. We had comradery. We were a team. And I really believe we’re lacking that in our society today.”
4. It Instills a Love of Nature
We live on a beautiful planet, but sometimes we fail to appreciate or recognize it. With all of the distractions we face, we can go days without taking a moment to watch a beautiful sunset or take a deep breath of fresh air.
When you are outside working in the garden and planting new life, you gain a new appreciation for the earth and what it provides. Staying connected to nature is also one of the best ways to stay grounded, which can help with various problems or difficulties.
5. It Helps People Slow Down and Reduce Screen Time
Life is fast-paced. Kids and teenagers have demanding schedules between dance, sports, AP classes, homework, lessons, and other extracurricular activities, and parents are responsible for getting everyone where they need to go. We go in ten different directions at all times, and it can be overwhelming. And when we do have a few seconds of free time, most of our attention is directed to our phones—whether it\’s social media, answering emails, or watching funny videos.
When you are working in the garden, everyday distractions take a back seat—giving you the chance to slow down. Take a break from the real and online world. It is good for the soul, and connecting with the earth is always a good idea.
Whether you have a big backyard or a tiny apartment, you can still benefit from a garden. You can find community gardens, hang planters in your house, put some small pots on your back porch, or build planter boxes in your yard. The opportunities really are endless, and even when you start small, you will see benefits.