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How Landscaping Can Benefit Your Mental Health

Our mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing are directly linked to our natural environment, and urban living lends no favors.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash.
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash.

There’s a lot to be said about urban living. Every pleasure and necessity is right at your fingertips; if you crave a deluxe cheeseburger at 2:00 a.m. or realize that you’re down to your last toilet paper roll (pre-COVID-19), what you need is typically a short stroll away.

The novelties and convenience of city life come at a price, however. There’s continuous chaos involved when thousands of people live and work in close proximity. Traffic jams, packed shopping malls, police and ambulance sirens, your neighbors blasting music and movies at all hours―it can all cause stress, anxiety, and other conditions that affect your mental health.

While moving is an option, it’s not the only one. There’s an all-natural solution that doesn’t require a change of address, just creativity and a green thumb.

If You’re Feeling Blue, Go Green

Have you ever returned from a camping trip wishing that you could have stayed there forever? Walked along an isolated nature trail and felt so relaxed that nothing short of a Blair Witch encounter could make you want to leave?

There is a long-recognized link between the natural environment and our mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. Exposure to nature has been known to:

  • Strengthen cognitive ability and self-esteem
  • Improve blood pressure
  • Calm your fight-or-flight response
  • Lessen symptoms of attention deficit disorder
  • Enhance community resilience

Being surrounded by greenery also helps you recover faster from illness, stress, and injury. In his 1984 paper, The View Through A Window, environmental psychologist Roger Ulrich presented data showing that surgical patients who could see nature outside their hospital room window experienced fewer post-procedure complications, required less pain medication, and spent less time in the hospital.  

The Harvard Medical School journal referenced a 2015 study that compared the brain activity of participants who spent 90 minutes in either an urban surrounding or a natural one. They found that those who enjoyed the nature stroll had reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is the brain region that’s active when you ruminate or focus on negative emotions.

A growing field called ecotherapy has confirmed the strong connection between exposure to the natural environment and improved mental health. Practitioners suggest that spending 20 to 30 minutes, three days a week, in a natural setting will yield beneficial results, but if you lack regular access to a park or forest, there are ways that you can bring the benefits of nature closer to home.

Landscaping: Designing Your Own Natural Environment

While direct contact with lush greenery and forest trails does wonders for your mental health, you don’t have to get out of town every time you need rejuvenation. As Roger Ulrich’s study showed, glimpses of nature from a hospital room window enhanced patient recovery. Why not take breaks throughout the day to work with the plants, trees, and shrubbery in your own backyard?

Try the following:

  • Plant rose bushes in front of your home to give it a vintage sophistication. The fresh, sweet scent of roses is a major mood-booster.
  • Adorn your porch or walkway with robust stone planters loaded with your favorite greenery.
  • If you own an older property, an old-fashioned greenery garland can unify the home and its natural surroundings into a soothing whole.
  • Set up boxwood shrubs and other evergreens that retain their vibrancy all year round.
  • Plant hydrangea bushes along your garage and the head of your driveway to soften the border between asphalt and greenery.
  • If you don’t have a stream or pond on your property, a trendy backyard design is to install a water structure like a fountain or mini-waterfall will do wonders for your wellbeing when you’re outside.

Indulging in these easy but effective landscaping measures is one of the most relaxing ways you can spend a Saturday afternoon. You’ll reap the emotional benefits and give your home major curb appeal.

No Yard? No Problem!

Maybe you live in a condo, apartment, or dorm room and don’t have a yard. Does this mean that you’ll have to get out of town every weekend to rejuvenate your mental health?

Not at all. Viewing and caring for flowers and plants in indoor living spaces can also boost your spirits. Studies have shown that caring for houseplants is highly beneficial for people who are experiencing physical and mental health challenges. It’s one of the many reasons why prison systems across North America are setting up gardens and greenhouses for inmates who might otherwise give in to destructive emotions.

Let’s take a look at some of your options when you have a no-lawn accommodation:

  • Grow your plants in hanging baskets if floor space is at a premium. Most species of ivy are great for hanging, and their vines can be positioned to run along bookshelves and countertops to enhance the outdoor effect.
  • Create a balcony garden. Use vertical gardening strategies to make a tiny concrete balcony bloom to life. Hanging baskets, railing planters, and stack planters are all great options, and your balcony will look a lot better than those of your neighbors- especially those who use theirs as miscellaneous storage space!
  • Set up a straw bale garden. You can grow flowers and even vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and greens without dealing with more onerous tasks like digging and weeding.
  • Grow a countertop herb garden. If you don’t have a balcony or a ton of indoor space, compact herb gardens are an excellent urban gardening solution that can reduce your grocery bills.
  • Cultivate a garden wall by installing rows of shelves and topping them with your favorite indoor plants. Their air purification ability will add to your overall sense of wellbeing.

Conclusion

Landscaping, whether it’s in the form of a hedge-pruning session, guiding ivy leaves along your porch or bookshelf, or cultivating aromatic herbs in your sunny apartment kitchen, provides you with mental health benefits that reduce the often-chaotic effects of urban living. You’ll still enjoy all the modern conveniences at your disposal, but no longer at the price of your wellbeing.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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