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Gardening to Lift Depression

Updated on April 29, 2014
photo by catsimmons
photo by catsimmons

Many people derive pleasure from gardening, but they may not know the full story of why. They enjoy the colours and textures of their plants, watching them grow from tiny seeds, and being able to bring order to chaos. Even just running their hands through the dirt can make them happy.

In a bout of depression many seek to hide away in the darkness to protect ourselves from imagined fears, if we could just get ourselves outside into the garden for a few moments then this might just be one of the simplest therapies available.


Exposure to the sun, even when the sky is overcast, gives us the chance to increase our levels of vitamin D in the body. Our best source of vitamin D is that which we produce within our skin as the sun's rays touch it, and is known to be a mood booster. One of the causes of winter depression is a lack of vitamin D which is more prevalent further away form the equator where the sun's effects are weaker in the winter and the days are shorter.

Early sun
Early sun | Source


Depression often slows us down to the point where we don't want to move at all. This is very counter-productive and can make us feel worse. People who have a garden to attend to and especially some hard physical work to do then this will benefit from their happy mood chemicals, called endorphins, that kick in to ease the pain from physical exertion. There are also many other related health benefits of exercise, like regulating weight and reducing heart disease, that contribute to us living happier lives.

Is gardening good exercise?


Beautiful things inspire beautiful thoughts. If we grow beautiful flowers then we are more likely to be in a positive frame of mind, after all, we send flowers to those we love to lift their spirits when they are ill or to celebrate special occasions. If depression is mild, then this simple realization that the world has more colour than we thought can be enough to bring us out of it.

Perfection | Source


The scents of the garden also affect us. Our sense of smell is is very closely associated with our memories and if we've ever enjoyed a happy summer outdoors then it's likely to be called to mind. Who doesn't love that smell of freshly mowed grass or a newly opened rose. Even the warm breeze on our faces can bring a sense of perspective and tranquillity.

sweet rose
sweet rose | Source


Working in the garden and enjoying nature gives us the chance to think in a way that is more in tune with our natural rhythms and give us a sense of perspective. We identify with our gardens and they become metaphors for our thoughts. Whatever catches our eye most is a reflection of something inside of us. We can use this reflection to meditate on our problems, without feeling under pressure, and the solutions may seem to appear out of no-where (there is nothing new under the sun and no problem that nature hasn't already encountered).

hiding in the decking
hiding in the decking | Source


There is another surprising reason why gardening may be a useful treatment for depression. Studies have shown that there are microbes living in the soil which act like antidepressant drugs. These microbes called Mycobacterium vaccae have been found to boost serotonin production in mice. (Serotonin is the chemical that is targeted the most by drug therapies). They also balance the immune system.

Study links dirt to happiness

There are many reasons then to get outside and garden. If you don't have a garden yourself then you can either visit one, or join a local cooperative where you can share in the enjoyment.


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    • MellyMoo profile image


      7 years ago from Australia

      Oooh yes, I love my gardening too!

    • catsimmons profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Simmons 

      7 years ago from Mission BC Canada

      Wow! thanks I hope it helps everyone:-)

    • profile image 

      7 years ago

      Great Hub - am printing it and giving it to certain people in the neighborhood -

      up, interesting, useful and awesome


    • crazybeanrider profile image

      Boo McCourt 

      7 years ago from Washington MI

      I think gardening is an excellent way to work through depression, it gives one something to work towards. I wish i had the room to garden, but then my OCD would and fear of snakes would prevent that. But i still love the idea of it.

    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 

      7 years ago from Escondido, CA

      awesome article catsimmons , , ,I am stoked about the microbes from the soil part , , ,maybe that is why I head to the garden first thing in the morning , , ,

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      I love gardening and find it very theraputic!

      This is a great well written hub, I enjoyed it and voting up.

      Welcome to hubpages and happy writing, I look forward to reading more.

    • catsimmons profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Simmons 

      7 years ago from Mission BC Canada

      Thanks for the feedback RJ :-)

      Glad your wife is enjoying her gardening!

    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 

      7 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      There are a lot hubs about gardening and this is a totally new approach! And I LIKE IT A LOT! You have a great original idea here and its; true 'cuase my wife loves gardening and it keeps her happy! Welcome to HUB writing. I enjoyed this very much. You have this laid out beautifully and it is easy to understand. Keep up the great HUBS. I must give this an “Up ONE and awesome.” I'm now your fan! I liek the cute frog too. RJ

      Based upon your HUB, you might enjoy…


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