Why gardening is so good for you

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Thinking of starting a flower garden or veggie patch this spring? Go for it! Planting seeds and pruning plants not only improves your property value—it offers rewards for your health as well. Research shows that this outdoor hobby can help fight depression and may decrease your risk of a heart attack. Here's a look at how growing a green thumb improves your well-being, plus a few easy tips to help you get started.

  1. Feel more relaxed. Gardening may help you unwind better than lounging on the couch or losing yourself in a good book. Research shows that spending time in green areas has a restorative effect and reduces stress. In one study, participants who gardened for 30 minutes reported better moods and lower levels of stress hormones than participants who read indoors.
  2. Lift your spirits. Digging around in the dirt can make you happier, according to research. In one study, symptoms of depression were measurably improved after three months of regular gardening. There is also evidence that suggests bacteria in soil may act as a natural antidepressant by boosting your body's serotonin levels. The light exercise also helps increase endorphin levels, contributing to a good mood.
  3. Keep your heart healthy. Regular physical activity helps lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and maintain your weight. But working out at the gym or jogging around the neighborhood isn't the only way to improve your cardiovascular health. Routine activities like gardening can be just as effective. In fact, a Swedish study found that gardening or DIY projects can reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke by nearly 30 percent in people 60 years of age or older.

How to Get Started
Even if you're a total newbie, you can still flex your green thumb. First, consider what you'd like to plant: flowers, veggies, or herbs. You may want to start small with a few houseplants or a few outdoor potted plants. Marigolds, geraniums, lettuce, and cucumbers are a few good, hearty plants for beginners. Ask your local nursery for specifics on how to help your garden grow. And don't be shy about joining a club or asking your neighbors for advice. It's a great way to bond with others.