By Anne Harding, Health.com
Gillian Aldrich started growing vegetables in her backyard three years ago, and she’s now working on planting a bed of hydrangeas, butterfly bushes, rose campion, and—her favorite—pale-pink hardy geraniums along one side of her property.
As she digs in the garden, her 8-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son often play around her, sometimes taking a break to dig for worms or pick strawberries. Instead of just watching them, Aldrich is playing, too—”my kind of play,” she says.
“When you sit at a desk all day, there’s something about literally putting your hands in the dirt, digging and actually creating something that’s really beautiful,” says Aldrich, 42, a magazine editor in Maplewood, N.J. “There’s something about just being out there that feels kind of elemental.”
Aldrich isn’t the only one who feels this way. Many gardeners view their hobby as the perfect antidote to the modern world, a way of reclaiming some of the intangible things we’ve lost in our busy, dirt-free lives.
The sensory experience of gardening “allows people to connect to this primal state,” says James Jiler, the founder and executive director of Urban GreenWorks, a Miami-based nonprofit that provides environmental services and programs for low-income neighborhoods. “A lot of people [understand] that experience. They may not be able to put it into words, but they understand what’s happening.”
Working in the garden has other, less spiritual rewards. In addition to being a source of fresh, healthy produce, gardening can ease stress, keep you limber, and even improve your mood.
Here are just a few of the ways gardening can benefit your physical and mental health, and how you can start harvesting those benefits for you and your family.
When was the last time you read a book, or a substantial magazine article? Do your daily reading habits center around tweets, Facebook updates, or the directions on your instant oatmeal packet? If you’re one of countless people who don’t make a habit of reading regularly, you might be missing out: reading has a significant number of benefits, and just a few benefits of reading are listed below.
1. Mental Stimulation
Studies have shown that staying mentally stimulated can slow the progress of (or possibly even prevent) Alzheimer’s and Dementia, since keeping your brain active and engaged prevents it from losing power. Just like any other muscle in the body, the brain requires exercise to keep it strong and healthy, so the phrase “use it or lose it” is particularly apt when it comes to your mind. Doing puzzles and playing games such as chess have also been found to be helpful with cognitive stimulation.
2. Stress Reduction
No matter how much stress you have at work, in your personal relationships, or countless other issues faced in daily life, it all just slips away when you lose yourself in a great story. A well-written novel can transport you to other realms, while an engaging article will distract you and keep you in the present moment, letting tensions drain away and allowing you to relax.
Everything you read fills your head with new bits of information, and you never know when it might come in handy. The more knowledge you have, the better-equipped you are to tackle any challenge you’ll ever face.
Additionally, here’s a bit of food for thought: should you ever find yourself in dire circumstances, remember that although you might lose everything else—your job, your possessions, your money, even your health—knowledge can never be taken from you.