Five (Scientific) Reasons Why Gardening Makes us Happy

We talk a lot about the science of gardening: the correct ratios of light and water, the pH of soil, the best ways to plant herbs. These aspects of the hobby are easy to recognize and easy enough to grasp with practice. 

While knowledge is definitely power when it comes to gardening, our joy in the activity stretches beyond just the technical aspects of planting. We appreciate the intangible–how gardening makes us feel, how it connects us to the earth and how it helps us to understand ourselves. 

We decided to explore the scientific rationale behind why gardening makes life a little brighter. As it turns out, there’s even more reasons to spend some time with plants than we thought. 

Here are five (scientific!) reasons why gardening makes us happy. 

  1. It gets us moving.

It’s no secret that exercise boosts endorphins, decreases stress and anxiety and improves overall mood. But what you may not know is that you don’t need to run a marathon to reap these benefits. Walking, low-level stretching and light lifting also provide amazing mental and physical health benefits, and all of these activities are part of spending time in the garden. 

Want to boost the amount of physical activity you get when watering your plants? Consider spreading your garden across a larger space to increase the amount of steps you take or hanging plants a little higher or lower than normal to allow for a deeper stretch. 

  1. It gets us outside.

In today’s highly urbanized world, it’s sometimes hard to remember that humans evolved to live outside. Studies have shown that being outside even as little as 20 minutes a day can boost overall happiness and well-being. But mental health isn’t the only perk of getting some fresh air. Sunshine provides Vitamin D, a crucial substance that sustains bone density and immunity and may even help prevent some cancers.

  1. It helps us grow.

The benefits of gardening are not exclusive to adults by any means. In fact, Michigan State University suggests that it can be a helpful aid in child development. The garden can be an engaging and tactile tool for teaching math, budgeting, environment science, and sustainability, important concepts for developing minds. 

  1. It gives us a hobby.

In a society in which over half of people view their job as their primary identity (and 55% are unhappy at work), having a hobby provides a necessary outlet for enrichment and self-actualization. Psychology professor Dr. Patricia W. Linville cites the concept of “self-complexity”–the idea that humans need many traits, roles and identities to feel complete and satisfied. Hobbies such as gardening diversify the aspects of life that contribute to happiness, helping us to gain resilience and perspective when things in one area don’t go our way. (I may be having a hard time at work, but at least my parsley looks good today!) 

  1. It connects us.

Gardening has the power to connect us–to the planet, to each other, to ourselves. Nourishing new growth helps us to remember that life is precious, that we have a responsibility to protect it. Sharing the bounty of our garden with others forms meaningful relationships with those around us. Gaining new understanding and knowledge reminds us that we are ever-changing and complex beings. All of these connections help increase overall happiness–and inspire us to get up and grow. 


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