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Gardening can lift your mood even if you’ve never done it before

Scientists think the reason might lie in our innate attraction to plants because we depend on them for food, shelter and other means of our survival.

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Lovely happy young woman gardener choosing flower pot with anthuriums in garden center
(ESB Professional via Shutterstock)

By Jim Leffman via SWNS

Gardening can lift your mood even if you've never done it before and have no mental health issues, a new study has revealed.

It has long been known that for people who struggle with their mental health, gardening can help improve their mood.

But its effects on healthy people was unknown until this latest research.

It found that in healthy women who had never gardened before, a twice weekly class lowered stress, anxiety and depression.

Scientists from the University of Florida think the reason might lie in our innate attraction to plants because we depend on them for food, shelter and other means of our survival.

via GIPHY

Professor emeritus in the UF/IFAS environmental horticulture department and prinicipal investigator for the study, Charles Guy, said: "Many longtime gardeners will tell you that the garden is their happy place.

"Past studies have shown that gardening can help improve the mental health of people who have existing medical conditions or challenges.

"Our study shows that healthy people can also experience a boost in mental wellbeing through gardening."

The team looked at 32 women aged between 26 and 49 who they split into a gardening class and an art class.

All were screened for factors such as chronic health conditions, tobacco use and drug abuse, and having been prescribed medications for anxiety or depression.

Both groups met twice a week for a total eight times. The art group served as a point of comparison with the gardening group.

Prof Guy said: "Both gardening and art activities involve learning, planning, creativity and physical movement, and they are both used therapeutically in medical settings.

"This makes them more comparable, scientifically speaking, than, for example, gardening and bowling or gardening and reading."

In the gardening sessions, participants learned how to compare and sow seeds, transplant different kinds of plants, and harvest and taste edible plants.

via GIPHY

Those in the art making sessions learned techniques such as papermaking, printmaking, drawing and collage.

Participants completed a series of assessments measuring anxiety, depression, stress and mood.

The researchers found that the gardening and art making groups experienced similar improvements in mental health over time, with gardeners reporting slightly less anxiety than art makers.

The study published in the journal PLOS ONE showed that even with the relatively small number of participants and the length of the study, the researchers were still able to demonstrate evidence of what medical clinicians would call the dosage effects of gardening, which is, how much gardening someone has to do to see improvements in mental health.

Prof Guy added : “Larger-scale studies may reveal more about how gardening is correlated with changes in mental health.

“We believe this research shows promise for mental wellbeing, plants in healthcare and in public health.

"The reason might be found in the important role of plants in human evolution and the rise of civilization.

“At the end of the experiment, many of the participants were saying not just how much they enjoyed the sessions but also how they planned to keep gardening."

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