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Whether you're a seasoned grower or a bit of a late bloomer, there's never been a better time to plant the seeds for one of summer's most satisfying pastimes: gardening.

Caring for a garden is one of the single most rewarding things we can do for ourselves. Not only does it offer full-body benefits, but it also deepens our connection to nature and even our communities (after all, that bumper crop of cucumbers is perfect for sharing).

Not fully convinced that time in the garden is time well-spent? Here's the dirt on why tending a patch of earth can be so good for you... AND your environment!

1. It keeps your mind growing. The simple act of gardening draws you into the task and helps you focus on your physical environment. It requires planning and problem-solving, which help create new neural pathways and keeps the brain active and agile. Another positive impact? A study from Australia found that gardening decreases your risk of dementia by 36%. Researchers point to increased hand/eye coordination and sensory engagement as major factors. And for those living with dementia, spending time in nature can actually defend against further memory loss. This could be due to the fact that the sights, smells and sounds of the great outdoors can bring a sense of familiarity when things seem ever-changing or confusing.

2. It gives anxiety the boot. Talk to folks who garden regularly, and most will tell you that digging in the dirt relieves their stress and improves their mood. In fact, gardening has been associated with boosts in serotonin, the feel-good hormone. The peaceful sights, sounds and scents of a garden can also promote relaxation and relieve anxiety. In fact, studies suggest that gardening lowers levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. There's a reason they say that gardening is cheaper than therapy!

3. It makes morning glorious. Sleep is hugely influenced by our natural circadian rhythm, and few things help set that rhythm better than fresh air, bright morning sunlight, and exercise. By spending time in the sun, you reinforce your body's cue to stay awake, which in turn helps it understand that night time's the right time for sleep. Plus the stress-busting benefits of gardening can also help you relax and sleep more deeply at night.

4. It's excellent exercise. Weeding, twisting, bending, squatting… it all gets your body moving. And even less-intense gardening tasks can help you burn up to 300 calories per hour. When you're lifting, tilling and raking, you're increasing muscle tone and strengthening with low-impact exercise.

5. It cultivates community. Gardening reminds us that we are not the center of the universe. Focusing on plants – whether in a simple flower box, a container plant on a patio, or a shared community garden – encourages people to step out of their shells. Gardening clubs can be found in practically any town, offering green thumbs a forum to swap stories, techniques and the fruits (and veggies) of their labors.

6. It improves your environment. True facts: a garden can be a refuge for a wide variety of beneficial pollinators and butterflies. Birds are also drawn to quiet green spaces and can help to keep unwanted insects away. In other words, caring for a garden also means supporting other forms of life in your area. But that's not all- growing plants can reduce your carbon footprint! Many retirement community kitchens use fresh vegetables and herbs grown by the residents, or display fresh-cut flowers that come straight from the on-site garden. Reducing trips to supermarkets or cutting down long-distance shipping saves fuel and cuts pollution—a net positive outcome!

7. It's just plain better! Nothing beats the fresh, sweet flavors of a homegrown tomato, a handful of basil leaves or a carton of juicy berries. Harvesting those foods or herbs is a tasty reward for your hard work – and it's a great reminder to eat healthy, too! But not only that, studies have shown that eating super-fresh, whole foods can play a significant role in treating depression. Adding these delights to your menu is good for your body AND good for your mood.

Final note: a garden need not be an elaborate undertaking. A simple windowsill herb garden or low-maintenance patch of sunflowers can bring big mood-boosting benefits. And while accessibility may put off some would-be gardeners, many independent living communities offer raised bed gardens or low-hanging baskets so that residents in wheelchairs can join in. Arthritic hands? There are ergonomic tools available to help.

An old expression goes, to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. This Earth Day, consider sowing the seeds for a greener, healthier, and happier summer season.

Ready to learn more about Holiday Retirement? Please contact us today! We look forward to welcoming you with a virtual or in-person tour soon.

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