How a Garden Can Help You Feel Better

From creating a garden to working or just spending time in one, the benefits of a garden are many.

Young black girl surrounded by wild flowers
skyNext / Getty Images

Gardens can be incredible spaces. They not only provide us with food and other resources to keep our bodies healthy, but they can also be great for our emotional well-being. The very act of creating and tending a garden can have notable effects – and many scientific studies have shown that simply spending time in a green and natural environment can be great for our mental and physical health.

The Benefits of Creating a Garden

a basket in grass overflowing with fresh vegetables like carrots sweet potatoes and tomatoes

Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

While scientific research extolls the benefits of being outside in nature, there is also ample anecdotal evidence showing how creating your own garden can be beneficial in less tangible ways. Here are a few:

  • Growing your own food can reduce the pressures associated with uncertainty over finances and/or where food is coming from, and reduce stress over supply chain issues or other factors outside your immediate control.
  • Choosing your own plants and deciding where to place them according to your site and your needs can help you feel you are taking back some control. It can give you a sense of agency and autonomy often lacking in the modern world.
  • When you start from scratch and create a flourishing, abundant, and beautiful garden, you can gain confidence and get an immense sense of satisfaction at a job well done.

Remember, when you create your own garden, you can design and create it in such a way that it becomes a haven for you from the stresses and strains of daily life. You can tailor it to your own specific needs and preferences and create a space that is ideal for you.

Creating abundant and biodiverse gardens, which are filled with beautiful and useful plants and ample wildlife can be a truly rewarding thing to do. Remember to think about not only how a garden looks, but also how it can engage the other senses. And provide you with useful yields – both tangible and intangible – over time. Work with nature rather than fighting it and you can create a space where you, as well as your plants, can thrive.

The Benefits of Gardening

close shot of purple morning glory flowers in green grass

Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

Researchers note that the act of gardening is likely so beneficial because it combines physical activity with social interaction and exposure to nature and sunlight. Tending your own garden over time can also promote healing and mental well-being. One study shows that gardening increases one's "life satisfaction, vigor, psychological wellbeing, positive effects, sense of community, and cognitive function." Additionally:

  • Gardening can boost your personal resilience by helping you to develop coping mechanisms. Not everything in a garden will go according to plan. And small disappointments and frustrations will help you learn how to cope when other things go wrong.
  • You can learn patience, and begin to appreciate that there are things outside of your control.
  • With each small success, however, your confidence in your own skills and abilities will continue to grow.
  • Tending a garden can help you feel more connected – to the natural world all around you, and also, of course, to others who might garden alongside you. Whether you garden on your own or with others, this can help you feel less alone.

On a personal basis, and for therapeutic healing, gardening can be extremely beneficial. Gardening can help people heal after mental health traumas or traumatic experiences. And help them to find their place in the world.

I have been involved in the design of gardens for wellness retreats, community spaces, and charities around the world – and have seen firsthand how gardens can heal. Gardens grow more than just plants.

The Benefits of Simply Spending Time in a Garden

ground shot of woman laying in green grass while reading book on a sunny day

Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

Whether you yourself are gardening or not, simply spending time in a garden can yield great benefits. Therapeutic gardens have been used in hospitals for millennia; even Florence Nightingale was a vocal advocate for them. Consider the following:

  • When we are exposed to the microbiome in garden soil, several studies have shown that beneficial bacteria can actually influence our mood in a positive way by acting on serotonergic neurons in our brains.
  • There is research suggesting that spending time in green spaces can lower the risk of developing psychological disorders.
  • Even short amounts of time spent in green spaces have been shown to be incredibly beneficial for mental well-being. Spending just 20 minutes in a green space, like a garden, even if you do not exercise there, has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health.

 A garden can be a wonderful place for "nature bathing" – simply stopping, and taking some time to commune with the natural world around you. Taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the garden can help you develop greater mindfulness and make you feel calmer and happier.

Seek out a tranquil space in a lush garden, and you can find balance and feel closer to the natural environment. You can truly appreciate the wonders of this world, and be grateful for all you have rather than dwelling on troubles and worries. You can begin to see the truth in the permaculture adage that all of the world's problems can be solved in a garden.

View Article Sources
  1. Robbins, Jim. "Ecopsychology: How Immersion In Nature Benefits Your Health." Yale Environment360, 2020.

  2. White, Mathew P., et al. "Spending at Least 120 Minutes a Week in Nature is Associated with Good Health and Wellbeing." Scientific Reports, vol. 9, no. 1, 2019, doi:10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3

  3. Thompson, Richard. "Gardening for Health: A Regular Dose of Gardening." Clinical Medicine, vol. 18, no. 3, 2018, pp. 201-205, doi:10.7861/clinmedicine.18-3-201

  4. Soga, Masashi, et al. "Gardening is Beneficial for Health: A Meta-Analysis." Preventive Medicine Reports, vol. 5, 2017, pp. 92-99, doi:10.1016/j.pmedr.2016.11.007

  5. Lowry, C.A., et al. "Identification of an Immune-Responsive Mesolimbocortical Serotonergic System: Potential Role in Regulation of Emotional Behavior." Neuroscience, vol. 146, no. 2, 2007, pp. 756-772, doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2007.01.067

  6. Engemann, Kristine et al. "Residential Green Space in Childhood is Associated with Lower Risk of Psychiatric Disorders from Adolescence into Adulthood." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 116, no. 11, 2019, pp. 5188-5193, doi:10.1073/pnas.1807504116