The Benefits of Gardening for Mental Health

If you have a stressful job, one of the benefits of gardening for mental health is that you can tuck yourself into your tomato patch and only come out when you decide.

Gosh, the benefits of gardening for mental health are endless. If gardens were a drug, pharmaceutical companies would be fighting to sell it.

If gardens were represented by Big Pharma, I’m sure they would come up with their own taglines like “Gardens are Great, Lose Weight!” or “Save Your Sanity, Grow a Garden!” I chuckle just to think about all the silly ways gardens could be marketed. I imagine infomercials with folks picking ripe tomatoes, then slowly turning to the camera with a cheesy smile, and some endearing slogan below it, like “He grew a garden for his mental health, and you could too!”

Back here in the real world, all you need to do is talk to a real gardener to hear the benefits of gardening for mental health and be inspired to grow a garden of your own, like the author of today’s piece, Gena Sayers. Her claim: “The plants love my stress, and I give it to them! I know for certain it saved me thousands of dollars in therapy.”

Boy, you couldn’t ask for a better testimonial than that, get this lady in a commercial!

Seek Out the Benefits of Gardening for Mental Health

This story comes from our archive that spans over 30 years and includes more than 130 magazine issues of GreenPrints. Pieces like these that inject the joy of gardening into everyday life lessons always brighten up my day, and I hope it does for you as well. Enjoy!

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My Garden Saved My Sanity

By Gena Sayers of Hesperia, MI.
Woman in the flowers

For years I suffered from the cursed black thumb—my mother quit bringing plants to me because they always shriveled away!

A few years ago, my stress levels and blood pressure were so high I was in real danger of having a stroke. (My job involves caring for patients moving from a state institution to a group home.) I needed to find some new way to help myself, so I picked up some sunflower seeds and started a sunflower garden—just a small one with five or six sunflowers. They were African Queens and so beautiful.

It helped me a little, so the following year I planted Romas. We had tomatoes for weeks that summer, and I could feel the stress melting away. I decided it was time for my first real garden. I had old tires repainted and turned into planters, I set up a gazebo for morning glory vines, converted a bird cage into a flower planter (with a dragon statue at the center), and more. Getting my hands and knees dirty, tilling, planting, sowing, weeding, and watering was the best therapy I could ever have chosen—and my money went right back into my pocket because I was growing so much of my own food: lettuce, spinach, corn, pumpkins, tomatoes, and herbs!

As it turns out, the plants love my stress and I give it to them! I fully believe my garden saved my sanity. I know for certain it saved me thousands of dollars in therapy sessions. As a graduate student in psychology and behavioral health, I recommend to everyone who asks me about stress management: Take it out on the soil and weeds!

By Gena Sayers of Hesperia, MI., published originally in 2016, in GreenPrints Issue #107. Illustrated by Linda Cook Devona

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Did this remind you of a similar story you’d like to share? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear it. 


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