Proof that Gardening Gives a Natural Mood Lift

Gardening Stress ReliefHow many people do you know who are affected by depression, anxiety, stress or other emotional illness? Or maybe the better question is: Who do you know that is not affected? The pressures of today’s increasingly fast-paced, high-tech society that demands you know all things at all times and learn to do them all at once has brought many to the brink at one time or another. Luckily, gardening therapy has become a highly recognized agent for healing. The even better news is that there’s science to back what we’ve all sensed the entire time: gardening therapy makes us FEEL better.

The American Horticultural Therapy Association compiled this research based list of benefits that horticultural therapy and therapy gardens bring psychologically: “Improve quality of life, increase self-esteem, improve sense of well-being, reduce stress, improve mood, decrease anxiety, alleviate depression, increase sense of control, improve sense of personal worth, increase feelings of calm and relaxation, increase sense of stability, improve personal satisfaction, and increase sense of pride and accomplishment.” [1]

Real Stress Release

Just this year the first experimental evidence to show that gardening helps relieve acute stress was released. Significant drops in a stress hormone called cortisol were demonstrated after 30 minutes of gardening and the positive mood of the participants in the study was considered fully restored. It’s not just a remedy, but a cure for acute stress.

Happiness that’s Infectious

Microbes in soil have proven to have mood lifting effects according to studies conducted by University of Bristol and University College London. A bacteria in soil called Mycobacterium vaccae has been found to effect the same neurons as Prozac via the release of serotonin in our brain. Serotonin is a natural anti-depressant and strengthens the immune system. In short, smelling soil as you turn over your garden and “play” in the dirt helps you feel happy.

A Natural High

Another study has shown that harvesting food from the garden results in a release of dopamine in the reward center of the brain. This release of dopamine “triggered a state of bliss or mild euphoria.” The theory is that this evolved from the days when we were hunter gatherers and our relationship with food was more immediate and directly correlated with survival.

Organic Maintains the Benefit

It’s important to eat organic or homegrown foods to make sure you aren’t negating the emotional healing capacity of your food.

Full list from the American Horticultural Therapy Association [1]

Author: Stacey L. L. Couch


  • We would like to know if it is possible to have one of these in Arizona, where it is extremely hot in the summer, and very dry. We’ll be moving there from Pennsylvania within the next 3 years. I suppose we could close it down during the hottest times of the year and keep it open during the other 10 months. Would it be that strong to support monsoons and extreme heat?

    • Hello Barbara, That is a great question. Overheating in the summer can be an issue, but luckily Arizona is DRY. What this means is you have a number of natural and simple opportunities to cool the greenhouse. The first and biggest is to grow a lot of big, leafy plants that fill the entire volume of the Growing Dome. These plants not only provide much needed shade, but also naturally provide evaporative cooling. Our 22′ Growing Dome is this lush and on a hot 90 degree day here in SW Colorado it is actually cooler inside the greenhouse than outside. In addition, the automatic vents, undersoil heating/cooling system and water tank of the Growing Dome provide cooling while off grid. Lastly, we offer a Desert Heat Package that provides a misting system and additional cooling fan. The combination of these two things imitate an evaporative or swamp cooler. Check out this video to learn more:

      The Growing Dome is engineer rated to withstand 100mph winds and we’ve received multiple reports of it withstanding winds between 120 and 130mph.

  • A mood lift in the greenhouse? Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Consider the higher oxygen levels with all those plants in a relatively confined area.

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