Caregivers face many tough challenges, most of which eventually can have a negative impact on their overall mental health.

While there are many things that people can do to help caregivers, perhaps the most important idea involves something that caregivers can do themselves. That “something” is gardening.

Hope Grows offers respite for caregivers in a number of ways, but one of the most powerful is offering the opportunity to work in nature through tending a garden.

This simple activity can provide caregivers a boost that goes far beyond what many might expect.

How Gardening Improves Life and Mental Health

Caregivers can feel stress, and even depression, after working for a long period of time providing care for a loved one. Feelings of isolation can harm their mental health, as well as the stress of daily tasks, financial burdens and even sleep deprivation.

Gardening offers restorative powers in a way that few others activities can. Here are some of the ways that gardening supports better mental health.

Reconnecting With Nature

Nature is restorative. While many people feel that is the case – a feeling they sometimes can hardly put into words – scientific studies have actually backed it up. One University of Utah professor did a cognitive study on his students. After three days in nature, they performed 50 percent better on cognitive tests. Gardening helps relax an overworked and fatigued mind by allowing it to focus on a simple task.

Rewarding Effort

One of the most pleasant aspects of gardening is how it almost immediately rewards effort. Pruning, planning, replanting, trimming, watering – whatever the task, it can lead within a short period of time to a healthy, growing plant.

Burning Calories

The Greeks had it right thousands of years ago – you must take care of both your mind and your body. Working in the garden can burn calories quickly – as much as 330 calories for just one hour of bending, reaching and stretching in the garden.

Feeling Good

A study done by the gardening company Bakker found that 88 percent of people say they garden simply because it makes them feel good, according to the Huffington Post. Some reported going into the garden before leaving for a day at work, offering them a chance to “de-stress” before the workday begins.

Both the scientific studies and the “feeling” people get being in nature is something that people have understood for centuries.

About 2,500 years ago, Cyrus the Great built gardens in the hectic capital city of Persia to give people a relaxing respite from day-to-day city life.

That idea continues to this day. The United States owes much to landscape architect Frederick Law Olsted, who designed Central Park in New York City and led the movement to get the country’s first National Park – Yosemite in California – set aside forever as public land.

And of course many poets through the years have praised the healing power of nature, from William Wordsworth to Robert Frost and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

So, it’s worth considering taking advantage of gardening opportunities, including those offered by Hope Grows. It’s a simple, time-tested way to let nature help restore your spirits as well as your physical and mental health.