Gardening is always nice. I love to get out into my flower pots outside and take care of them. At the moment, I’m taking care of some elephant ears and chrysanthemums. The nicest part of it is sitting out with my flowers and appreciating how nice they look on the patio. I feel calm and present. I figured this would translate into a half-decent rabbit hole.

In my usual fashion, I decided to first gain some background information about the therapeutic effects of gardening. From NPR, I learned that is had the fancy name of horticultural therapy and that working with plants could help to alleviate many mental disorders and reduce stress. Gardening also helped troubled teenagers, convicts, and homeless people alike all gain a better sense of self and reduce misbehavior.

Next, I decided that I wanted to get some information from horticultural therapists themselves. I went to the American Horticultural Therapy Association’s website. There, I found many more benefits for gardener’s brains and the practice’s history. In the 19th century, Dr. Benjamin Rush was the first to document the benefits of horticultural therapy. The therapy was popularized in the 1940s and 50s when it was used to help hospitalized veterans. Today, the practice is widely accepted, and people use them for both rehab programs and their personal use.

I explored one more area of interest. I wondered what kind of chemicals affected the brain while gardening. According to Permaculture, seratonin and dopamine levels increase when a person works in the garden. A type of soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, directly causes increase of seratonin production in the brain when people are in direct contact with dirt. Dopamine levels increase when a person harvests their crops. With this, I learned that gardening is not a placebo, it actually acts in the brain to make people happier.

While I’ve always enjoyed getting my hands dirty, I never knew exactly what made me feel just a little bit better when I watered my plants or checked the soil level. Next time I’m out there, I’ll make sure to “stop and smell the roses.”


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