Environment

Why having your own garden is therapeutic

Having a little patch of green has always been important for Bengaluru-based Anjali Chalisgaonkar. “I grew up in small-town India and my mother is a gardening enthusiast. So, we’ve always had gardens,” she says.

When she set up her own house, she decided to carry forward that gardening tradition, starting with a few pots on the balcony and soon expanding. “The pleasure of growing plants is tremendous,” she says, admitting that working in her garden gives her a sense of well-being and happiness.

She isn’t the only one. A 2016 meta-analysis of research conducted by the NCBI concludes that there is, “robust evidence for the positive effects of gardening,” and that it can, “improve physical, psychological, and social health.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US, adds that, “Gardening can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors, get physical activity, beautify the community, and grow nutritious fruits and vegetables.” This is what our team of experts has to say.

“Plants relax a person,” says Kolkata-based psychologist, Mansi Poddar.

Which is why, perhaps, there is a specific treatment programme called eco-therapy, that aims to improve mental and physical well-being through a range of outdoor activities, including gardening. “It gives people who are depressed a sense of purpose and meaning,” says Poddar, pointing out that since it is an activity with an outcome, “it makes people feel a sense of achievement and improves their self-esteem.” It can also be a great outlet for negative emotions, improves attention and focus, calms an overactive nervous system and helps people who find contact with the world difficult, “establish safer and gentler transition into the world,” says Poddar.

It is also great at relationship building and emotional intelligence. “Gardening taps into the part of us that nurtures. And having that sense of warmth and comfort reduces stress,” says Poddar. By becoming a community activity that fosters a sense of belonging, it becomes especially useful for older people who often struggle with loneliness. However, it is equally beneficial for children, since it encourages a sense of responsibility and inculcates environmental consciousness. Also, “it is also a spiritual activity. I see many people using gardening as a metaphor for life.”

“Gardening helps you stay limber,” says Gurugram-based functional fitness and rehab specialist, Vani Pahwa.

It’s especially important as you age and develop conditions like arthritis and muscular degradation, she says. A spot of light gardening — think weeding, digging, mulching — can help you perform movements like squatting and balancing, naturally. Of course, this is dependent on other factors, including age, body-weight, gender and intensity, but the fact is, “any movement counts,” says Pahwa, adding that keeping active is especially important for people who don’t train regularly.

Even seasoned athletes can benefit, of course, by adding in a few sessions of gardening. “Constantly performing at a high intensity is detrimental to health,” says Pahwa. More importantly, however, gardening helps you connect to nature. “You become part and parcel of a life-cycle that gives you emotional satisfaction. This brings in a separate dimension to health,” she says.

“The quality of food grown at home is always superior,” says Delhi-based Lovneet Batra, a sports nutritionist

Better water, home-made compost, no lab-made fertilisers, ensure that food grown at home is more flavourful and nutritious. Besides, the less the food has to travel, the less is its carbon footprint. So what could be better than heading out into your balcony to pick up fresh palak, tomatoes or mint?

Batra, who herself grows many of her own vegetables, says that easy access to seeds and superior systems like hydroponics, make it very convenient to grow much of your own produce. “There is definitely a shift with more people growing their own food,” says Batra, adding that this is especially useful for food eaten raw, like salad or cold-pressed juice. “Commercial vegetables and fruits are often full of pesticides or injected with chemicals,” she says, pointing out that there have been cases of people falling sick after consuming them.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 4:12:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/why-having-your-own-garden-is-therapeutic/article22549776.ece

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