A Treatment for Depression
How Gardening Might Be Your Overlooked Treatment for Depression
By Maria Cannon
For people suffering from depression, it often seems like there aren’t many avenues for self-treatment. Some depression sufferers, unable to find healthy ways to cope, turn to drugs and/or alcohol and develop addiction, which only exacerbates the initial problem. While it’s certainly not a panacea for all depression symptoms, gardening has been shown – both scientifically and anecdotally – to help people manage their depression.
“Even if I only had the energy to plant one bulb or water one pot, I felt as if my day had not been wasted. As the old mantra goes, it is easier to act your way out of negative thinking than think your way out of negative acting,” says one woman who says gardening helped her get out of a depression rut.
The sunlight factor
Being out in your garden, planting flowers, is a fun and productive way to get your daily dose of sunlight. Did you know that sunlight is absolutely vital to improving your mood and helping to stave off depression?
“Without enough sunlight exposure, a person’s serotonin levels can dip low. Low levels of serotonin are associated with a higher risk of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression that is triggered by changing seasons,” notes Healthline.com. For more on Vitamin D, serotonin, and depression, read this.
The nurture factor
It is scientifically suggested that having something or someone to nurture gives us a sense of purpose, and that purpose helps to combat feelings of depression.
“Gardening entails nurturing small plants or seeds into larger plants and flowers. There is an element of care-giving and being responsible for the growth and blossoming of life. This is an activity which, similar to caring for a pet, can help with feeling worthwhile and purposeful, and thus helping to combat depression,” one psychotherapist tells The Huffington Post.
With a garden, you can nurture plants, fruits, vegetables, and herbs from seeds to thriving plants. Garden sustain other life as well, from birds and bees to creepy crawly critters. Having all of the life around you and knowing you’re responsible for it is a true mood booster.
The soil factor
Getting out and digging in the dirt isn’t just a way to fight depression indirectly. The dirt itself may actually help you in ways similar to antidepressant drugs. A recent study found that microbes found in soil can actually trigger immune responses that can help fight depression and other mood disorders.
“Previous studies have linked early childhood exposure to bacteria to protection against allergies and asthma in adulthood. The new finding take this idea, called the ‘hygiene hypothesis,’ a step further, and suggests bacteria-exposure not only boosts our immune systems, but alters our vulnerability to conditions such as depression as well,” says LiveScience.
The distraction factor
Many mental disorders fester when we are inactive, bored, or unstimulated. That’s why finding a hobby we truly love, making social contact with friends, and even getting a new pet can have such drastic positive effects on our mood.
Gardening is a wonderful distraction in that it gets us out into nature, surrounds us with beautiful things to look at, stimulating smells, and is a hobby that lets us easily see our progress. Not to mention you can spend hours upon hours in your garden and barely make a dent!
While “curing depression” is a lot to put on the humble task of gardening, there is plenty of evidence that people who garden live happier, healthier lives. That’s why this mental and physical health-boosting activity is well worth a try if you find yourself struggling to cope with your depression in a healthy manner.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com