Can gardening heal my depression?Tools for mental health

If you are feeling depressed, overwhelmed with life’s responsibilities, feeling hopeless, and unbalanced, gardening is one hobby that might help you feel better. Here’s how gardening works to improve depression.

Believe me when I say, I am not trying to add one more thing to your never-ending To-Do list while running on low energy. I know on a personal level that when you struggle with depression, everything seems to squeeze the life out of you. But please hear me out.  What if I told you that the simple act of caring for plants has the potential to ease your depression?


What makes gardening therapeutic?

Gardening has tremendous benefits on physiological, emotional, psychological, and spiritual levels. You may start feeling connected, hopeful, and energized in a new way.

Did you know that dirt has anti-depressant bacteria with effects similar to the ones found in anti-depressant medications?

On a physical level, gardening awakens all our senses and brings our focus on the present moment. The feel and texture of the soil, the smell – oh my God that smell of life- the green of the foliage, the colors of the flowers, the humming of birds and bees, and the beauty of butterflies that show up uninvited to enjoy the show – everything in the garden breaths divine life and energy.

On an emotional and psychological level, one can experience gardening as a profoundly calming and grounding activity because it facilitates self-reflection, thus helping with the processing of thoughts and emotions. Escaping in nature, sitting with the trees, or by the water is not always easy in our modern life. Gardening is a way to connect with nature on a deep level right in your backyard or on your patio.  And especially when you care for those plants yourself, you get that feeling of connection with life itself that is missing when you feel depressed, lonely, and isolated.

On a spiritual level, you may start to feel connected with the energy of nature, life itself, and the Divine that manifests in the spirit of plants,  giving people with mental health issues a sense of belonging, self-efficacy, self-confidence, and hope. Hope is a key feeling that needs to be deeply nurtured when trying to recover from depression. Gardening gives you that hope because, when you sow a seed,  you do so in the hope that it will germinate, grow, bloom, and even fruit.

While expecting and witnessing the positive results of caring for your seeds, the subconscious mind learns the important lessons of time, love, patience, and, acceptance. Acceptance of the fact that not every seed will germinate, not every pest will be trapped and weeds will grow despite our best efforts. One comes to accept that there are circumstances in our lives, that are beyond our control, that we do the best we can with what we have and even our best efforts sometimes, are not enough; and there was nothing, nothing, one could have done to change those circumstances. Just like that deer will find a way to sneak into my garden at night and eat the flower I have cared for weeks. I’ll have to accept that it was hungry and needed to eat.

Gardening is the great metaphor for life. Each of us has experienced the efforts that were in vain, the seeds that did not germinate – weather in our lives or in our pots – the weeds of our lives in the toxic and abusive relationships we have been through, exhausting careers as the overgrowth in some parts of our life garden, plants that we have planted ourselves only to allow them to take over and overtake our space and run out of control.

But oh! What about those seeds that did germinate, flowered, and bloomed in all their glory!

Gardening teaches another very important lesson: there is great reward in the initiative one takes in interacting, nurturing, and manifesting change in one’s environment. So much pride and confidence arise when we manage to prune the overgrowth, pull out the weeds, make different choices to replace the non-germinated seeds, and fill that empty space in your garden, in your pot, in your life…

Not everything we do will succeed, but we can always choose to grow something else in our lives, make new goals, have new dreams, or maybe, simply try again.

Weather you have a big garden, or a small container, the benefits, as you see, are tremendous. And imagine the thrill of picking your own tomato, or flavoring your food with your own grown herbs. Yum!

It is affordable. No need to spend a fortune and you can always add on.

It gives you something to look forward to, a reason to get out of bed, the excitement when you notice another leaf on the stem just like another season of your life is about to begin.

Start small, take it one step at a time, one day at a time, and keep going.

Let me know in what ways gardening has benefited you. I read and respond to all my emails!

This article is not intended to replace professional help. If you tried self help strategies and did not work, seek out professional help from a psychiatrist or a therapist. A lot of people in therapy wish they’ve done it sooner.