As the sunlight begins shining through the spring showers which bring May flowers, we know that summer is on its way. Although most of the world has been confined to their homes during this global pandemic, stories of the unique ways people are combating the physical isolation associated with staying at home have flooded social media sites. Gardening is one of these hobbies that has seen a resurgence in the past few months, and a Princeton study published in Landscape and Urban Planning explores how caring for plants at home can positively affect your mood.
The study—which was conducted prior to the pandemic—surveyed 370 different people living in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area on their emotional state and happiness levels throughout the day. Of the 370 participants, 118 of them engaged in home gardening. These home gardeners reportedly had high levels of happiness, when gardening was measured against other day-to-day activities. This “emotional well-being” (EWB) that the study tracked was higher for vegetable gardeners than for ornamental gardeners. This might be because of the relationship you build with your vegetable plants as you watch them grow and mature over the course of the planting season.
Additionally, the authors explain, “Household gardening is the only activity, in this study, where women and low-income participants report higher EWB than men and medium/high-income participants respectively.” These marginalized groups often live in food deserts (areas without access to affordable, nutritious food), and these gardens help substantiate their family’s diets. The rise of this kind of urban farming/gardening has also come in the wake of the global movement to support environmental activism. Young climate change activist Greta Thunberg was TIME’s 2019 Person of the Year, and environmentally friendly hobbies like upcycling and gardening are more popular than ever.
This report helps connect these global incentives to be environmentally supportive at home with the biological benefits gained from engaging in outdoor planting. Many studies have also assessed that being in direct sunlight raises your serotonin levels (the brain chemical that is linked to your mood), and this contact with the sun while gardening can give your brain an extra boost of happiness. Don’t know quite where to start with building your own home garden? Check out this comprehensive guide for gardening beginners.