It’s proven that horticultural activity such as decorating an indoor space – whether it be living or working – positively affects one’s overall mental health, mood, and cognitive abilities. It is a small way of resembling the natural world. Tending to potted indoor plants has exhibited to enhance these advantageous effects even further. Researchers dive deep to understand the benefits of horticultural activities such as gardening and how it boosts overall well-being for adults and children.
Studies have shown that individuals who spend time tending to and cultivating plants had lower stress levels as plants naturally soothe human beings. When looking at this more holistically, it has a significant impact on overall well-being.
Shaping healthy habits in the youth
Mental, physical, and other chronic illnesses are undoubtedly on the rise. However, recent research suggests that humans may have more of an upper hand in preventing said illnesses than initially thought. The American Cancer Institute reports that 30% of known cancers can be attributed to poor food quality. When considering this biological perspective, the field of epigenetics aims to try and understand the influence that environmental factors have on an individual’s gene expression.
For example, if an individual has a predisposition to disease – such as cancer or any mental illness – these potentially problematic genes can remain dormant and be kept from being fully expressed through several constructive health practices such as good nutrition and exercise. Educating children about healthy habits can help maximize overall health and well-being and, in turn, potentially prevent disease.
The impact of gardening on children
An interactive way to teach children about said habits is through horticultural activity like gardening. Gardening comes naturally to children as they are more naturally inclined to explore and play outside. With a seemingly endless supply of curiosity, children are, more often than not, delighted to learn first-hand where the food they consume comes from. Allowing children to partake in this farm-to-table process has many positive benefits.
As mentioned, one of the ways that gardening helps promote overall well-being is by encouraging healthy eating habits, which can, in turn, improve physical health. Furthermore, it can also strengthen the immune system. Based on a study from Northern Illinois University, children and young adults raised around or on a farm are, historically, healthier than those who were not. It was discovered that children exposed to these kinds of things regularly in a natural manner were less likely to develop allergies and autoimmune disorders.
In addition to improving physical health by stimulating the immune system, gardening can also help improve mental health. It is common knowledge that when a person exercises, the brain releases endorphins that lift mood and makes one feel more productive. A common theme through research surrounding mental health and the natural environment is that being outside and surrounding oneself with horticulture improves mental health by reducing stress and anxiety levels.
Due to this, community gardens have been regularly introduced at rehabilitation centers and hospitals to help provide positive psychological benefits to the patients at each center. Research suggests that gardening with children can offer stress-relieving services. Spending time playing in the soil instead of an asphalt playground can reduce kids’ levels of stress and inattention. Furthermore, some research suggested a certain bacterium found in soil may positively affect one’s mood and positively affect learning behaviors, but this research is limited.
In conclusion, gardening can promote children’s overall well-being by improving mental and physical health and encourage healthy eating habits. Allowing kids to help in the garden or create their own provides them with an excellent opportunity to be active and creative. Countless research has shown that kids who can help grow foods and vegetables will eat are more likely to eat them. Healthy eating habits can improve disease resistance, help support immune function, and benefit the child’s well-being.