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Gardening is more than fun and productive: it can, research confirms, transform many aspects of your mental and physical health, as well as your garden itself, of course.

How Gardening Benefits People With Mental Illness

Spending time outdoors in general has been found to improve mood in people suffering from depression, as well as leading to an overall lower risk of mental health challenges in anyone at all — and gardening, of course, is mostly done outside. Gardening offers more mental health benefits than "just" spending time in the Great Outdoors, however.

A Norwegian study of people suffering from bipolar disorder, depression and general low mood demonstrated that gardening was able to boost the participants' mental health greatly, allowing them to form strong team bonds and increasing the social interactions people with mood disorders often struggle with. The benefits, the study demonstrated, lasted well beyond the research period.

A long-term study of senior citizens who were dementia-free at the time of commencement also showed that gardening reduced people's risk of developing dementia by a whopping 36 percent, even after controlling for other factors, leading the study team to conclude that daily gardening is especially beneficial for elderly individuals hoping to reduce their risk of dementia.

What's more, there's other evidence around suggesting both that gardening benefits war veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and that gardening programs within correctional facilities can help convicts turn their inner and social worlds around.

Pretty amazing, no?

Gardening Fosters A Primal Connection With Nature

Yeah, yeah, I know: we're squarely stepping outside the realm of science and entering "woo" territory here. Still, it's got to be mentioned. Every gardener I've ever spoken to, and they're sure not all crunchy granola types, concurs that gardening fosters a primal connection with nature that's hard to put into words yet too important to neglect to talk about.

By sticking your hands in the soil, participating in nature's life cycle, and being physically connected with those aspects of being humans on this green Earth, you're gaining something special. No longer a mere spectator, you are now playing an active part in nature. Gardening will no doubt offer you a new respect for the Earth, as well as the role we humans can play in transforming it.

There's little else that is quite as satisfying as relaxing in your garden — perhaps even with some home-made elder flower wine and a stir fry made with veggies you grew yourself — after a hard day's physical work, looking at something you know you played a huge part in creating.

Gardening is a powerful and yet humbling experience, something that doesn't quite match up to anything else. Whether you are seeking to escape the old rat race for a while to simply relax, you're looking into growing your own food to feed your family, or you want to save money on landscape gardeners by doing the job yourself, don't be surprised if gardening transforms not just your garden, but you, too.