Gardening: from Gary Scott’s 26 May newsletter

Words of wisdom from Gary A. Scott (http://www.garyascott.com/):

Many readers cannot abide exercise for the sake of exercise itself. This becomes really boring to them. They have to find ways to exercise that have a context beyond reinforcing limberness, stamina and good health. They need a motivation and a reason to perform the exercise. I fall into this category and this is one reason I love gardening and our micro agri businesses.

Working in the garden provides fresh food as it eases stress, keeps a person limber, as the process refreshes the mind.

A Dutch study shows that gardening is one of the best ways to fight stress.

Two groups of people were instructed to either read indoors or garden for 30 minutes. Afterward, the group that gardened reported being in a better mood than the reading group. The gardeners also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

The human mind has a boundary called limited channel capacity. The brain can only take in limited amounts of information at a time. Passing the limits creates irritability, increased errors, distractions, stress, decreased efficiency and less productivity.

University of Michigan researchers found that the capacity can be renewed by engaging in “involuntary attention,” an effortless form of attention such as planting, pruning, mowing, digging and other forms of gardening.

The senses become balanced when we are in a natural environment. Easy, repetitive, action are sources of effortless attention.

A Norwegian study found that over half the people studied with depression and other emotional and mental disorders experienced a measurable improvement in their symptoms after spending six hours a week growing flowers and vegetables for three months. The benefits continued three months after the gardening program ended.

Part of the benefits may be based on the chemistry of gardening. Mice injected with Mycobacterium vaccae, a harmless bacteria commonly found in soil, had an increases in the release and metabolism of serotonin in parts of the brain that control cognitive function and mood — much like serotonin-boosting antidepressant drugs do.

The theory is that modern living reduces the amount of friendly bacteria in the system and this reduces the effectiveness of the immune system. Gardening helps put the bacteria back.

Gardening introduces fresh air, sunshine and requires many different movements that provide flexibility and stamina as excellent forms of low-impact exercise.

Two separate studies that followed people in their 60s and 70s for up to 16 years found, respectively, that those who gardened regularly had a 36% and 47% lower risk of dementia than non-gardeners, even when a range of other health factors were taken into account.

Plus food from the garden is the freshest of all!

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