Gardening – a secret to happiness?

Thanks to the impact of Corvid-19 on how we spend our time, our gardens have probably never been in better shape. And the good news is this is likely to also be true for us personally, as well.

That’s because the ‘health’ of our gardens has a direct link to our own health and well-being according to new evidence. Particularly regarding how happy with life we feel.

To put it simply, the fruit of our labours in the horticultural department can deliver very worthwhile fruit for our own lives.

We know this thanks to research from the US Princeton University. They ran a study in the Minneapolis-St Paul area with people using an app to report their emotional well-being while taking part in any of a selection of activities.

As a result, they discovered the level of emotional well-being – or happiness – generated by gardening matched that produced by cycling, eating out or walking.

When it comes to how meaningful and rewarding an activity felt while being engaged in, the researchers found home gardening was among the top five.

This is in line with research among populations with the greatest number living into their 90s and beyond. Known as the Blue Zones, these communities have certain ways of living in common that lead to longer, healthier lives. And gardening is one of them.

What’s the reason for this good news? Those behind the research and others identify a number of clear benefits from getting horticultural. These include that gardening –

Builds self-esteem. With people feeling good about the outcome of their labours.

Is good for the heart. The physical activity involved burns off calories and strengthens heart muscles.

Reduces stress. A focused and non-threatening task helps reduce depression and anxiety.

Can make you happy. Out there among the earth, breathing in mycobacterium vaccae – a healthy bacteria living in soil – increase levels of serotonin and reduces anxiety.

Boosts vitamin D. This gift from sunlight increases calcium levels benefiting bones and the immune system.

The Princetown research also suggests the benefit from gardening is equally experienced across all sectors of the population – with women and those with low income benefiting the most. At the same time, the advantages from generating a sense of happiness extended almost equally between races and urban and suburban communities.

It seems whether people gardened alone or work with others, the benefit is much the same. However, those reporting the higher levels of emotional well-being were those with a vegetable patch rather than a garden for display. So digging up the petunias and planting beans instead may be a step towards being even happier.

The research was designed to inform decisions on town planning and revealed the value of including gardens and community gardens. But in the process it has shown that those who dig, plant, water, and prune reap the benefits in more ways than one.

God really knew what he was doing when he put Adam in charge of a garden.

How does your garden grow? Do you recognise the benefits to how you feel? Please share your story here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, and escapes to Spain when he can. He doesn’t have a garden.


  1. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof” (Psalm 24) Michael Baughen’s lovely paraphrase in Psalm Praise comes to mind. The words and music blend together to uplift and satisfy the human spirit so that gardening becomes no longer toilsome but rather a joy. Sing it to your heart’s content and to the praise of Him who called you out of the darkness into His marvellous light.

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The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years"

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife