Chapter 11: PLAY IN THE GARDEN
I am a huge fan of gardening, for many reasons. Exercise, sunlight, healthy food, and interacting with beneficial bacteria are all great reasons to start a garden. Not to mention the positive impact it has on the environment! We are facing a health crisis in the United States, and I believe gardening could be a very effective tool to battle this crisis.
To me gardening is the pinnacle of personal responsibility as it relates to health, there is no better feeling than growing and eating your own food. From start to finish you have worked like crazy to dig, plant, and water your plants. You have stimulated your mind by researching what to plant, how to plant, and when to plant. And then you get to enjoy all of your hard work with a juicy tomato or delicious salad!
In this increasingly fast-paced and disconnected society, gardening provides a chance for friendship and exchange. I have met some of the most amazing people through the gardening community. It is also a great way to bridge the gap between the young and the old. Many of my gardening mentors are from a different generation, but we share a love for growing our own food. I cherish the moments with these mentors and the knowledge that they have passed down is invaluable.
Imagine a neighborhood where nobody has grass in the front lawns, instead they all have vegetable gardens. Think of the possibilities that this could create! Instead of going inside and watching television, everyone would be outside working in their yards, talking to one another, trading food and seeds. Information would be exchanged and neighbors would once again get to know one another. It is completely possible to do this! I would love to live on a street where every house had a front yard garden!
Why the front yard and not the backyard? We are disconnected as a society, and this is one of the factors that is causing increasing rates of depression in all age groups. Let’s start talking to each other again! Imagine the amazing health and knowledge the children growing up on that street would enjoy. The elderly people in the neighborhood would benefit as well; what can make you happier than interacting with young children?
How about the science to support gardening for health benefits? One of the main reasons to garden is vitamin D. As a population we are deficient in this critical vitamin as a whole. Your body is such an incredibly amazing, intelligent machine. When you go out in the garden and enjoy some sunlight your body knows just how much it needs, when you start to get a little red it is time to go inside! Vitamin D supplements are great, but nothing can compare to the power of the sun, and natural vitamin D gain is preferred.
Another incredible aspect of gardening is the exercise that you get from working outside. As any experienced gardener can tell you, it ain’t easy! Digging, weeding, and planting all require you to bend, twist, push and pull. This is great news! Think back to the chapter on exercise and you will recall that our bodies are designed to move in a certain way. Gardening provides the opportunity for movement that is natural and the end product is delicious foods!
Many gardeners agree that the secret is in the soil. Usually they are referring to how a good, healthy soil is necessary to be a successful gardener. An important component of healthy soil is beneficial bacteria, which allows plants to thrive. Would you be surprised to discover that the same beneficial bacterium that helps plants is now being studied as an anti-depressant? When you get out and “play in the dirt” you are actually recolonizing your skin with healthy, beneficial bacteria that keep your body chemically balanced.
Let’s review the benefits of gardening. Reconnecting to your neighbors and your natural environment, growing your own amazing organic vegetables and fruits, getting your necessary vitamin D, exercising, learning, discovering, and exposing yourself to beneficial bacteria. From a health care perspective, gardening may be the most beneficial self-guided activity to improve overall well being.