National Gardening Month (April) is in full swing and Earth Day is right around the corner, making now the perfect time to pull on your work boots, load up the wheelbarrow, and get down and dirty in your backyard. This month’s digging and lugging will blossom into a fragrant oasis as the season progresses, but your efforts will harvest more benefits than a plot of pretty petunias. Gardening is a comprehensive mind-body exercise that benefits both your mental and physical health. Below are 5 ways gardening will help your health bloom.

Reconnect with Yourself

Today’s constantly connected culture doesn’t offer much solitude, but gardeners understand the value of alone time. Gardening provides the opportunity to break free from social demands and reconnect with yourself. Much like the solitude of meditation, gardening provides the space necessary to tune into your thoughts, feelings, and goals. Not only will this foster more security in yourself, you may also develop more empathy for the wants and needs of others. After all, taking care of your garden will hone your caretaking skills and sense of responsibility for outcomes in general.

Cultivate Patience

Our modern world makes it easy to get anything you could ever want right when you want it — all it takes is a click, a trip to the store or, in extreme cases, two-day express shipping. Gardening, on the other hand, comes with very few moments of instant gratification. It takes time to prepare a garden plot, to plant seeds and, most of all, to wait for those seeds to grow. Gardening reminds us of the sweet rewards patience can bring.

Release Happy Hormones

There’s a reason we often feel uplifted after a day in the sun. Studies show a link between time spent in nature and reported happiness. Increased exposure to nature also contributes to decreased feelings of anxiety and depression. Gardening takes these benefits to the next level, as the satisfaction of harvesting has been linked to increases in serotonin and dopamine — two hormones that make us feel happy.

Improve Your Family’s Diet

We’ve all heard that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but many children seem to prefer the apples baked in pies or dipped in caramel to the kind picked straight from the tree. While sweet apple treats are welcome on occasion, we want to make sure the food our family eats on a regular basis is as nourishing as possible.

Studies show that children who garden tend to eat more fruits and vegetables because they get to eat produce they’ve grown themselves. Starting a family garden will not only provide your kitchen with a convenient supply of fresh foods, it can also encourage your kids to maintain healthy eating habits throughout their lifetime.

Sneak in Some Exercise

Gym sessions, marathon training, and yoga classes aren’t for everyone. Gardening can be an effective form of moderate, lifestyle exercise that builds strength, improves mobility, and burns calories. Lifestyle exercises are everyday activities that also work your body to contribute to your long-term health and fitness.

Take up gardening for yourself and you’ll soon find you come into a more balanced mindset and a healthier body, whether you’re able to turn your whole backyard into a vegetable garden or if you start by potting a small herb garden on your windowsill.

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