Some of the best medicine doesn’t come in a little plastic bottle at the drugstore. You’ll find it outside in the sunshine and soil of the garden. Growing and nurturing plants is one of the best holistic treatments for ADHD, stress, anxiety, and depression. Here are some of the science behind the mental health benefits of gardening.
The growing evidence shows gardening works as a mental health intervention. It’s a natural ADD remedy, and it alleviates symptoms of depression and stress. In 2013, an article in Mental Health Review Journal looked at 10 studies that investigated the link between gardening and mental health. All 10 studies reported positive benefits.
One of the few things that mental health institutions in the 19th century got right, was gardening. According to The Lancet Psychiatry, gardens were a big part of what were then called asylums. The act of planting was thought to bring “cheerfulness and tranquility” to the patients. Modern studies show that to be true — but today we call it the end of a depressive episode and restoring a sense of calm.
Stress, anxiety, and depression are often linked with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. But ADHD and ADD are separate conditions. Gardening may still be one of the most effective ADHD therapies for kids. In one study, parents rated the effect of after-school activities on their kids. The ones that took place in a green, outdoor setting appeared to have been a successful treatment for ADHD.
Successful therapies for ADHD enhance attention and impulse control. Those symptoms are often the reason parents of kids with ADHD seek help for studying. Researchers found that kids who took a walk in the park could concentrate better than those who had taken a walk in the city. Mental health experts say that just confirms that gardening is also an excellent ADHD treatment for kids.
The successful treatment of ADD also means improved productivity — and this is where gardening is an effective ADD treatment. Advice for improving productivity includes rewarding yourself, creating goals, and developing protocols. Creating a goal such as “food-scaping” can be as simple as nurturing food plants, including tomatoes, cabbage, and strawberries. Developing protocols can include following a watering and weeding schedule. The reward, of course, is eating those berries, or biting into a homegrown tomato sandwich.
Yes, there are medications to treat ADD, such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Strattera. But they often come with unwelcome side effects. Natural remedies can help you rely less on those pharmaceutical solutions that are often hard on the brain and body. Gardening is a great natural ADHD and ADD treatment, because it attacks the stress and depression, restores a sense of calm and offers a structure to help improve productivity. You'll reap more benefits than just a fruitful garden. You'll also increase your attention span and be able to live a life with a lot less stress.
*This blog post was written by Patti Walsh.
Patti Walsh is a retired school psychologist who now spends her days tending to her organic vegetable garden and landscape. When she’s not gardening in the backyard, you’ll find her firing up the barbecue for her friends and neighbors.
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