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Feeling stressed? Try gardening, researchers say

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If you’re looking to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, think about planting a garden, say researchers at the University of Florida.

The researchers asked 32 healthy women between the ages of 26 and 49 to participant in either gardening or art-making sessions that took place twice a week over four weeks. The gardening sessions involved learning how to compare and sow seeds, transplanting different kinds of plants, and harvesting and tasting edible plants. No members of the group had gardened before.

In the art group, the participants learned papermaking, drawing, printmaking and collage techniques. Previous research has linked art to improved mental health.

The new study found that, over time, the gardening group experienced a reduction in depression, mood and stress levels similar to that of the art group – and even lower levels of anxiety (although the difference was slight).

Therapeutic horticulture dates to the 19th century, the researchers note in a blog post on the UF Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences website, adding that people may be attracted to plants because of our dependence on them for food, shelter and other means.

“Our study shows that healthy people can experience a boost in mental well-being through gardening,” said Charles Guy, researcher and professor emeritus in the UF environmental horticulture department. “At the end of the experiment, many of the participants were saying not just how much they enjoyed the sessions, but also how they planned to keep gardening.”

The study was published online in the journal PLOS ONE.

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