A majority of Americans are stressed about something at some point every day. If you’re one of the lucky ones who has access to a garden or some sort of green space, you have a readymade stress reliever waiting to help.
According to The American Institute of Stress, 55% of Americans who responded to their survey reported feeling stressed during the day. In that same report, 94% of respondents said chronic stress is commonplace at work.
One of the best ways to reduce your stress levels is to get outside and get to work in the garden or just relax in nature. Plus, there are also some physical benefits.
“I tell my patients often that getting outside and working in the garden is a fantastic way to help destress,” said Nathanael L. Lafferty, MD, a specialist in family medicine at Maury Regional Medical Group (MRMG) Primary Care in Spring Hill. “Not only can the fresh air and greenery help your mental state, but you can also get in some physical activity. Growing your own fruits and vegetables can also lead to healthier eating habits.”
If you’re feeling stressed, try these tips:
- Get active: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults need an average of 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per week. Physical activity produces endorphins in the brain that can help reduce stress. Get your hands dirty in the garden pulling weeds or go for a good walk in nature to get your blood pumping.
- Soak in the sun: The sun’s rays provide us with Vitamin D and can help release serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a hormone associated with boosting moods. Vitamin D can also help bolster our immune system, aid in healthy heart and lung function, and more. Find a beautiful, cloud-free afternoon and spend time outside in the garden soaking in the warm sun. Don’t forget sunscreen!
- Maintain a healthier diet: Eating healthier can provide the energy needed to cope with stressful events and help regulate cortisol levels, which is a hormone produced by the body in times of stress. Help yourself maintain a diet that is rich in fresh ingredients by growing your own food. Not only will you be 100% sure of where your produce is coming from, but you’ll also be proud of yourself for creating such a bountiful harvest!
- Get creative: Having some personal creativity time can decrease stress levels by allowing your mind to concentrate on how you want your project to look instead of stressors. The mental focus and mindfulness can help your stress fade away and give you something else to put your mind on. Gardens provide a great creative outlet. Map out how you want your garden to look and let your mind work.
- Aromatherapy: Research has shown that aromatherapy can help reduce stress levels. Some flowers and plants, like lavender, have been shown to provide a sense of calmness when smelled. Try incorporating some into your garden.
April, which has been designated National Garden Month, is a great time to start getting outside and prepping the garden for a spring full of growth. Earth Day is also celebrated on April 22, providing many opportunities to gather with your community to clean up the environment, plant a tree or participate in other activities.
If you don’t have access to a personal garden, go for a walk in nature. You could even find or start a community garden to not only help your own stress levels, but also those around you.
“Even if you’re only able to get outside for a few minutes, it can be worth it for your mental health,” Dr. Lafferty said. “It’s an easy, healthy way to try and get rid of your stress.”
Nathanael L. Lafferty, MD, is a specialist in family medicine at Maury Regional Medical Group (MRMG) Primary Care in Spring Hill.