Scientists have revealed that gardening is ‘good for the soul’. They say it improves happiness and emotional wellbeing as much as cycling, walking or eating out.
The new study by Princeton University researchers found getting outdoors and gardening was particularly beneficial for women in low income households.
While running or sports may provide more physical exertions, gardening works better as an emotional pick-me-up than other activities.
The research team say it becomes even more beneficial for those who grow their own vegetables than those who have manicured ornamental gardens.
The study of 370 volunteers in the US involved people reporting on their own levels of emotional wellbeing using an app while undertaking a range of activities.
The finding that vegetable gardening helps emotional wellbeing could be significant if used to encourage those with small gardens to grow food rather than flowers, especially as a way of sustaining densely populated areas, according to researchers.
The authors found gardening was good for improving happiness whether it was by people on their own or with relatives or in groups.
Those who regularly tended to gardens were likely to spend more time doing so than those who took part in other activities, the authors found.
They also reported levels of happiness as high as other activities and higher in the case of women and low income households.
Lead author, Anu Ramaswami, said it has implications in terms of equality of food planning as lower income families tend to have less access to healthy food options.
‘Gardening could provide the health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables, promote physical activity, and support emotional well-being, which can reinforce this healthy behaviour,’ Ramaswami said.
‘Many more people garden than we think and it appears that it associates with higher levels of happiness similar to walking and biking.
‘In the movement to make cities more liveable, gardening might be a big part of improving quality-of-life.’
The benefits were the same across racial boundaries and between urban and suburban areas, according to co-author Graham Ambrose.
The volunteers all lived in the Minneapolis St Paul metropolitan area and used a cellphone app called Daynamica to report their emotional well-being while engaged in any of 15 daily activities.
‘People know where community gardeners garden, but it is hard to know who is gardening at home, which our group uniquely identified,’ Ambrose said.
The researchers found that home gardening was among the top five activities in terms of how meaningful it felt to people while engaging in it.
Study authors now plan to replicate the study amongst community gardeners rather than household gardeners to see if they report a similar emotional benefit.
The findings have been published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning.
-Adapted from Daily Mail