Seasonal Depression, Winter Blues and Gardening | Science Proves Getting A Little Dirty is Good

Taking care of your indoor plants or your container garden of seasonal herbs can be a beneficial way to combat seasonal depression. Seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year, usually in the winter months. Symptoms of SAD may include low energy, oversleeping, and increased appetite. One way to alleviate these symptoms is by caring for your plants.

Let’s look at the positive impact of taking care of your desktop garden and can have on your mental health. Taking care of indoor plants can provide a sense of purpose and accomplishment, which can be especially valuable for those experiencing symptoms of depression. Additionally, bringing nature indoors can help improve mood and reduce anxiety, as the presence of plants has been associated with increased feelings of calm and relaxation.

Furthermore, caring for indoor plants can provide a source of routine and structure in one’s daily life, which is crucial for managing symptoms of depression. Watering, pruning, and tending to the needs of plants can offer a sense of responsibility and connection to nature, which can help combat feelings of isolation and despair that often accompany seasonal depression.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD)? The Mayo Clinic explains SAD as a type of depression related to changes in seasons. This disorder generally begins and ends at the same time every year.  You can get a mild version of SAD known as the “winter blues”, but full SAD goes beyond the winter blues, manifesting as a form of depression that can affect your daily life, including how you feel and think.

An extensive body of scientific research exists today on SAD, with evidence indicating that decreased exposure to daylight disrupts our circadian rhythm cycles. This disruption ends up impacting the levels of key body regulating hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain like melatonin and serotonin.

Fresh Herbs and The Winter Blues

Fresh herbs and The Winter Blues

During gray, cold days many of us may experience a dip in mood due to the lack of sunlight and colder temperatures. If you find yourself feeling the winter blues, you may be wondering if herbal tea can help boost your mood. While herbal tea is not a cure-all, it does have some potential benefits for improving mood. Certain herbs, such as chamomile, lavender, and peppermint, are known for their calming properties, which can help reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. Additionally, the act of sipping on a warm beverage can bring a sense of comfort and relaxation during the cold winter months. Consider incorporating herbal teas into your daily routine to see if it can provide some relief from the winter blues.

1. Adaptogenic properties: Some herbs like ashwagandha and rhodiola are known for their adaptogenic properties, which can help the body adapt to stress and improve mood.

2. Antidepressant effects: Herbs like St. John’s wort and saffron have been found to have antidepressant effects and can help improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression.

3. Relaxing and calming effects: Herbs like chamomile and lavender have relaxing and calming properties that can help reduce stress and anxiety, which are common symptoms of the winter blues.

4. Immune-boosting properties: Many herbs, such as echinacea and elderberry, have immune-boosting properties that can help the body stay healthy and ward off illnesses that can contribute to the winter blues.

5. Anti-inflammatory properties: Some herbs, like turmeric and ginger, have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the body, which is often associated with mood disorders.

Depression and Daylight Saving Time

According to The Cleveland Clinic, seasonal depression can become more amplified when the clock turns back during daylight saving time, due to the decrease in “our access to daylight.” This new normal can cause “our bodies [to] struggle to adjust to the new light and time frame”, which creates mental and physical strain. 

Some states have recognized the outdated nature of Daylight Saving Time, and have decided not to observe it. Arizona, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico are all examples of states or territories that have ditched this tradition originating in the World War I era of time. Experts argue that abolishing this around-the-clock craziness could lead to “mediate some of the economic and health consequences that come with decreased daylight” like “traffic accidents, heart attacks, workplace injuries and crime”, as well as “improving quality of life during dark fall and winter months.” 

For those of us who live in a state that is not the three listed above, we have a little bit less luck in terms of receiving an appropriate amount of daylight for our mental well-being during the winter. Until Congress passes a bill on the federal level, it seems we are on our own to combat how we manage the season.

How can getting a little dirty help? Research has shown that just touching soil, specifically mycobacterium vaccae (a type of soil bacteria), can help increase our serotonin levels and improve our mood. Being in the presence of plants has always had therapeutic benefits. The value of being around something green and nurturing its growth can be uplifting and inspiring.

Ideas to Spark Joy in Darkness

Don’t worry, not all hope is lost! There are ways to bring light into our lives, even with the sun going down hours earlier than we would prefer. Gardening can alleviate seasonal depression symptoms because it provides an outlet and foundation for “bringing [a person] closer to light, such as when tending to plants near a window.”

Many studies have found that surrounding yourself with bright and colorful greenspaces can turn into a “meditative practice”, especially if you are “caring for plants”. In addition, gardening can give a little boost of serotonin to “help combat depression during those cold, gray winter months.”

Gardenuity is honored to be at the forefront of the movement of utilizing gardening as a tool for physical and mental wellness. We believe in making gardening accessible to anyone, anywhere. Whether indoor plants, desktop greenery, or a full-blown outdoor garden is your speed, Gardenuity has options for you to succeed. You have the power to spark joy and bring more light to your days within the winter months.

Gardenuity makes it easy to let nature nurture you, as well as your mental health with gardening options that fit any home or lifestyle. Whether you have a windowsill, a desk, an apartment balcony, a fire escape, or a beautiful backyard, there is always a way to bring nature into your day-to-day routine. 

Let’s dive a bit deeper into different types of gardens that can help with gratitude and peace during depressing or dark times. 

Desktop Garden

Desktop Gardens are an easy and effective way to grow levels of contentment, peace, and calm in your life at work, school, or home. Gardenuity’s Fern Gardens, Tropical Gardens, or Succulent Gardens can serve as a reminder during the stressful, overwhelming moments of the work day, to enjoy the little bursts of color in life. 

As someone who personally utilizes the tropical bamboo desktop garden, I can appreciate the idea that being in the presence of nature truly does carry power to make you feel at peace. Whenever I have a deadline or a mess of assignments on my plate, I take a step back, mist my tropical garden, and take in deep meditative breaths to put the world and my work into perspective. It can be tempting to internalize and view the world through our problems, rather than focusing on all of the good things there are to appreciate. 

Taking a few moments to mist and nurture your garden, nurture yourself with some nature and breathing skills, as well as practicing some gratitude. 

Desktop Indoor Gardens

Do you already feel calm and grateful? Well, maybe you just need some inspiration to grow! Care for your plants and watch them grow to inspire blooming in your own life. Our Alfresco Amaryllis Waxed Bulb collection is easy to grow and easy to love. Amaryllis is a super low-maintenance indoor plant that creates gorgeous flowers and can be upcycled to use year after year. Give yourself the gift that keeps on giving with endless opportunity to grow, thrive, and bloom. 

When thinking about what your plant needs to grow and thrive, take some time to think about what gives you life and encourages growth in your life. A rich potting mix, good drainage holes, and regular waterings all contribute to the overall plant health. Just like plants, humans need light, love, nutritious foods, and ample water. Looking at the parallels between nature and humans can be a great way to add perspective and make the world feel slightly smaller and your mind a little bit more open.

Outdoor Gardens

Finally, the wonderful grow bags and outdoor gardens. These miracle bags are perfect for any living situation you may have from a windowsill to a porch to a balcony to a fire escape. You can grow anywhere! 

If some real outdoor growth, getting your hands dirty, and seeing the light of the day sounds like what you need, then we have ample garden choices for you. Getting your hands dirty has so many benefits to one’s mental health. Similar to grounding, just getting outside and getting dirty can boost your levels of serotonin and drastically decrease negative feelings of depression and anxiety. 

Getting your hands dirty can have the power to “improve sleep, normalize the day–night cortisol rhythm, reduce pain, reduce stress, shift the autonomic nervous system from sympathetic towards parasympathetic activation, increase heart rate variability, speed wound healing, and reduce blood viscosity.”

Whatever you are feeling during these colder and darker months, Gardenuity is here to support you with resources and information to get you back to you! 

Get growing this winter!