Gardening is one of the most rewarding daily activities that people can pursue, new research finds.
It makes people at least as happy as other activities commonly linked to high well-being, such as exercise and eating out.
Both home gardeners and community gardeners find it remarkably meaningful, which likely contributes to the mental health boost it provides.
Vegetable gardening, though, provides a bigger boost to happiness compared to ornamental gardening — perhaps because of the extra satisfaction that comes from growing one’s own produce.
Mr Graham Ambrose, the study’s first author, said:
“The high levels of meaningfulness that respondents reported while gardening might be associated with producing one’s own food.
The boost to emotional well-being is comparable to other leisure activities that currently get the lion’s share of infrastructure investment.”
The study included 370 people in the US who reported their emotional well-being during 15 different daily activities.
The results showed that gardening was in the top four happiest activities, along with eating out, walking and biking.
Professor Anu Ramaswami, study co-author, said:
“Many more people garden than we think and it appears that it associates with higher levels of happiness similar to walking and biking.
In the movement to make cities more livable, gardening might be a big part of improving quality-of-life.”
Women and people with lower incomes find gardening particularly pleasurable, the researchers found.
Professor Ramaswami said:
“This has implications for equity in food action planning considering that people with lower incomes tend to have less access to healthy food options.
Gardening could provide the health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables, promote physical activity, and support emotional well-being, which can reinforce this healthy behavior.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning (Ambrose et al., 2020).