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Tigra scientifica: The proven mental health benefits of gardening

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Gardening flowers can help create less stress and lower anxiety and depression specifically in women. 

Flower Power. This phrase most likely elicits imagery of groovy hippies holding up peace signs in the ’60s and ’70s. However, according to new research, the “Flower Power” mantra may hold some legitimacy.
In a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, University of Florida scientists found that gardening lowered stress, anxiety and depression in women. It seems that plants really do bring humans a sense of peace.
The study analyzed 32 women between the ages of 26 and 49, all reporting histories of positive physical and mental health. Half of the women were assigned to gardening sessions for a total of eight weeks, while the other half participated in art sessions as a point of comparison.
Throughout the eight weeks, the participants underwent a series of assessments measuring anxiety, depression, stress and mood. The outcomes revealed that both groups experienced similar boosts to their mental health. Yet, the gardeners reported slightly stronger improvements to anxiety levels.
The researchers anticipated that the art group would exhibit mental health improvements. There is an abundance of research supporting the benefits of art therapy, thus the art sessions were strategically chosen as the alternative task to measure the gardening outcomes against.
Charles Guy, principal investigator on the study, explained that a variety of gardening and art activities are used therapeutically in medical settings.
“This makes them more comparable, scientifically speaking, than, for example, gardening and bowling,” Guy said.
So, why does the presence of plants boost our spirits? Guy speculates that the answer lies in evolution.
“As a species, we may be innately attracted to plants because we depend on them for food, shelter and other means of our survival,” Guy said.
Perhaps the draw to flower power is as much biological as it is psychological.

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