Cultivating Calm: 14 Ways Gardening Can Alleviate Anxiety, Stress, and Depression

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

When I am feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed I head out into the garden to water a few plants, smell a few flowers, evict a few weeds, and harvest a few of the ripest fruits and veggies. Being out in the garden is my happy place, and I have heard that I am not the only one that feels this way. Which brings me to an interesting question: what is it about gardening that alleviates stress, anxiety, and depression? Of course, I absolutely had to know, so I set out to dig a little deeper into what makes “my happy place”, well…my happy place. 

Feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed? My advice is to head out into the garden for a few hours of alone time with nature. Well, that’s my go-to, at least. If you are interested in how gardening can obliterate feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression in your life, you’ve come to the right place. Below are 14 ways that I have found gardening helps minimize the anxious, sad, and stressful moments/feelings I have in my life. Let’s jump right in:

These are 14 ways gardening can help you with anxiety, stress, and depression:

1. It provides a good physical workout (exercise).

If you think gardening isn’t a workout, think again. Gardening involves pulling, pushing, walking, lifting, and tugging. Any form of moderate exercise done for about 30 minutes per day leads to the release of the happy hormone called Dopamine. Dopamine leaves you feeling happy, relaxed, and somewhat stress-free. If you ever wondered why some people get addicted to exercising, now you know.

2. It provides an opportunity to express your creative side.

When feeling stressed or anxious, a great way to deter those feelings is to get creative. You might not feel like designing a website or painting a portrait, but working in the garden provides a calmer, gentler way to express yourself creatively and feelings. You can design garden beds, alter existing features, experiment with color combinations, and so on.

3. Spending some time in the sun can improve your mood.

Gardening provides you with the perfect opportunity to get a bit of fresh air and sunshine. It’s believed that the average person needs around 15 minutes of sunshine per day in order to get the required Vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for boosting mood. A good mood makes stress and anxiety easier to deal with. If you never spend time in the sun and don’t get enough vitamin D, you are at risk of depression, and that can exacerbate stress and anxiety. 

4. It provides a sense of being in control.

Often it is feeling out of control that leads a person to feel additional stress or anxiety in the first place. Just by gaining a bit of control, these feelings can be minimized. While gardening, you will be able to feel completely in control. You can plan to neaten edges, trim hedges, and get things looking ship-shape to get a sense of control and to reduce stressful, anxious feelings.

5. It reconnects you with nature.

There’s a reason why most meditations are done outdoors or in rooms with soundtracks of nature playing in the background. Relaxation, de-stressing, and letting go of anxious thoughts and feelings are well paired with the sounds and surroundings of nature. The next time you feel stressed, step outside into the garden, quiet your mind, and focus simply on the plants around you. Test it out for yourself.

6. It occupies your mind and distracts from other worries.

Often feeling stressed and anxious leaves the mind reeling and the body tense and panicky. If you have nothing to distract from those feelings, they simply grow worse. If you are prone to stress and anxiety, head out into the garden and get to work. Put your mind fully on what you are doing – digging up weeds, watering flowers, trimming hedges – so that you can clear and calm both body and mind.

7. It allows you to set goals and work towards them.

People that feel stressed and anxious can really derive value from a set schedule. Scheduling allows you to know what to expect next and enables you to plan for it. With gardening, you can set goals and schedule time to work towards those goals. Simply having more structure in your life can help to reduce those feelings of anxiety and stress. 

8. It revs up your immune system.

Did you know that getting a little dirt under your nails is good for your immune system? Bacteria found in garden soil are said to boost the immune system allowing the body to better protect itself. One of the things that can exacerbate stress and anxiety is poor health, so get outside and do a bit of gardening. You will be healthier, and your stress and anxiety will decrease.

9. It boosts confidence and self-esteem.

Nothing boosts self-esteem and confidence more than doing something right and having created something that everybody oohs and aahs. When someone is feeling confident and has a high self-esteem, stress and anxiety take a back seat.

10. It provides you with the chance to be a nurturer.

One of the greatest forms of therapy is being able to nurture another creature or plant. It’s a tried and tested form of rehab and therapy. When you make the connection that plants suffer stress too, you can relate to them. You can then put effort into nurturing them into flourishing healthy plants. This has great value for someone suffering from crippling anxiety and feelings of stress. 

11. It boosts mindfulness. 

Another great way to fight stress and anxiety is through mindfulness. Mindfulness is a meditative practice that requires some effort. In order to be mindful, you have to practice keeping your mind on the current task/project/moment without letting it wander. As soon as your mind wanders, you need to bring it back to the present moment and refocus. Gardening provides the perfect opportunity to practice this technique as it is peaceful, and you can truly focus on simply doing what’s on your gardening to-do list.

Being able to live in the current moment instead of dwelling on the past or obsessing about the future is great for busting stress and anxiety right out of your life.

12. It’s a great way to workout inner frustrations.

Feeling physically frustrated often leads to stress and anxiety. These feelings only leave once you have worked through them or at least found some form of release. If you think that gardening is a docile exercise/hobby, you are wrong! There are many ways that you can work out physical frustrations in the garden. You can hack at hedges, you can yank alien plants out, you can dig holes and garden beds – the list goes on. Just how aggressively you garden is up to you. 

13. It reminds you of the circle of life.

It’s often said that one of the most significant causes of stress and anxiety in life is the fear of death or not achieving everything before certain points in life. While gardening, people can connect better with the concept of the cycle of life, by being actively involved in helping their garden (and plants) manage its life-cycle process. This helps to provide a sense of acceptance and ease, which is great for deterring unnecessary stress and anxiety.

14. It’s easy to learn and oh-so rewarding.

One of the reasons stressed and anxious people avoid doing new things or learning new hobbies is that they fear failure – and that can simply add to the stress and anxious feelings. 

The good news is that gardening is easy to learn, and there is a multitude of free DIY help articles and tips online that can help you through every type of gardening hurdle. You will undoubtedly find the end result rewarding. Just think about all the fresh fruit, veggies, and herbs you will enjoy. You might even find that your family and friends can’t stop talking about the amazing difference that you have made. 

All in all

While I have obviously been enjoying the stress, depression, and anxiety-relieving benefits of gardening, I never really knew why. After considering these points, it all seems ever so obvious to me! Could gardening be the stress and anxiety-relieving hobby that you have been searching for?

In my opinion, if anyone had to ask me for a non-medical, 100% natural way of busting stress, anxiety, and depression out of their lives, I would undoubtedly tell them to take up gardening

+ posts

This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.