DIG­GING DEEP

Gar­den­ing not only pro­vides food for the pot it also boosts your well­be­ing and soothes your soul

DRUM - - Health -

DON’T un­der­es­ti­mate the power of a patch of land. Gar­dens im­prove the lives of many by pro­vid­ing in­come and prod­ucts for a healthy life­style. But that’s not all – get­ting your hands dirty also makes you feel good, ac­cord­ing to Bri­tish be­havioural sci­en­tist Pro­fes­sor Paul Dolan.

Of all pro­fes­sions, his re­search found that garde­ners and florists are the hap­pi­est of all – they’re nearly twice as happy as peo­ple in more pres­ti­gious, well-paid jobs.

An­other UK sur­vey of 1 500 adults for Gar­den­ers’ World mag­a­zine found that 80% of gar­den­ers feel sat­is­fied with their lives com­pared with only 67% of non­gar­den­ers.

The power of plants is par­tic­u­larly po­tent when fresh-cut flow­ers are thrown into the mix.

Amer­i­can psy­chol­o­gist Dr Nancy Et­coff found the pres­ence of a blo­om in your home makes you more com­pas­sion­ate, re­duces anx­i­ety and makes you feel less de­pressed.

Science has dug up a num­ber of other in­ter­est­ing health find­ings for those will­ing to plough, sow and reap.

GREENS ARE GOOD FOR YOU

Most of us know we’re sup­posed to in­clude a daily dose of veg­eta­bles in our di­ets to keep us healthy.

Among other things, greens give us en­ergy, lower chol­es­terol, help our eye­sight and bones, keep our weight in check, and ward off var­i­ous dis­eases.

Sev­eral stud­ies show that gar­den­ers eat more fruit and veg­eta­bles than those who don’t grow their own, so they tend to be health­ier as well.

NA­TURE’S MEDICINE

But you don’t even have to eat the veg­gies – just be­ing in the gar­den is enough to: Lower blood pres­sure In­crease brain ac­tiv­ity Have a calm­ing ef­fect on your mood Pos­i­tively af­fect men­tal he­alth Counter stress and anx­i­ety Cut stroke and heart at­tack risk by 27% in those over 60

Pro­vide a sense of pur­pose, sat­is­fac­tion and achieve­ment.

Get­ting your hands dirty can ex­pose you to friendly bac­te­ria in the soil that can boost your im­mune sys­tem, as well as im­prove your mood.

As a phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, gar­den­ing can im­prove your strength and fitness lev­els. On a men­tal level, it makes you fo­cus on the task at hand rather than worry about to­mor­row. And it’s been cred­ited with in­spir­ing cre­ativ­ity by of­fer­ing a way for peo­ple to con­nect with them­selves and their dre­ams in a safe, nur­tur­ing space.

GERMINATING THE NEXT GEN­ER­A­TION

Fun and ed­u­ca­tion can be rolled into one by in­tro­duc­ing chil­dren to gar­den­ing. Stud­ies of af­ter-school pro­grammes sug­gest that, like adults, chil­dren who gar­den are more likely to eat fruit and veg­eta­bles. It also gets them ac­tive in a pro­duc­tive way that can im­prove de­vel­op­ment and play. Stud­ies have also shown chil­dren di­ag­nosed with at­ten­tion deficit hyper­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der have re­duced symp­toms − like se­vere dif­fi­culty con­cen­trat­ing, hyper­ac­tiv­ity and poor im­pulse con­trol − when they play reg­u­larly in out­door, green set­tings.

BUILD­ING COM­MU­NI­TIES

Com­mu­nity gar­dens bring peo­ple toge­ther and cre­ate a com­mon pur­pose. Rese­arch sug­gests they pro­vide the fol­low­ing health ben­e­fits: In­creased feel­ings of hap­pi­ness from mak­ing new friends Feel­ing ful­filled Pro­tec­tion against iso­la­tion and feel­ings of de­pres­sion Pro­vid­ing a sense of pur­pose and men­tal stim­u­la­tion.

Soil is vi­tal to al­most ev­ery as­pect of life on land. We couldn’t sur­vive with­out it.

RIGHT: Lovedalia Tsewu started grow­ing her own veg­gie gar­den af­ter re­tir­ing.

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