Spring will soon be here, especially here on Vancouver Island as we are blessed with a moderate climate which means we need to be preparing for the forthcoming growing seasons. Over the winter we had several conversations around the many positive physical benefits to growing your own food outside and inside - and doing so 12 months of the year!
One of the conversations touched on the mental benefits to getting out into the outdoors and growing organic food. This is a benefit that we have seen, especially in children with behavioral issues but never really researched the subject much further.
Therefore, we put a few hours into the old keyboard and google and came up with a list of well-established key benefits for the health of the mind.
The general consensus is that several research programs have found that the process of planting, nurturing, and harvesting self-grown produce, decreases cortisol (the stress hormone), increases overall well-being and can have a positive impact on mental health related behavioral issues.
Looking at several research findings, we can summarise the key points:
Several reports found that getting our hands dirty is good for us. Research found a correlation between soil bacteria and stress resilience via the micro-biome which promotes healthy brain function. Further studies are exploring the positive role that the bacteria in our gut play in regulating stress-related changes in physiology, behavior, and brain function. In other words, getting 'down and dirty' in a garden can actually improve our state of mind.
Exposure to the great outdoors and nature lifts our mood. Simply spending time outside on a regular basis has positively shown to decrease levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. So why do we spend so much time indoors?
Now for the magic; watching something appear where there was nothing before can have quite an impact on individuals. The kids I work with in our school programs cannot wait for the organic produce to grow so they can taste it, much to the surprise of many a parent. They love coming to the gardens and seeing the progress of plants as they grow. And of course, they take ownership of what they have grown. That kind of interest and passion has been proven other than by Friendly Organics to encourage a more positive outlook, taking us out of our own heads and helping us to focus on something bigger than ourselves.