Why Veterans Should Embrace Gardening: Health & New Connections

Gardening is a hobby that appeals to people from all walks of life, sometimes even those who might initially resist the idea of gardening. Veterans get used to living one type of lifestyle while they are in the midst of their military service. However, when they come home and are working on readjusting to civilian life and perhaps coping with some health challenges, they may find that gardening provides a much-needed outlet for improving their overall health.

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs shares that many veterans have found gardening to be beneficial to both their mental and physical health. People may not always realize it, but gardening, especially with a focus on fruits and vegetables, can be quite labor-intensive. Not only is it a great opportunity to get in some physical activity, but veterans typically find that they experience benefits to their mental health, too.

Gardening comes in many forms, and veterans can find success in many ways. For some, utilizing a solar greenhouse where they can grow plants from seeds throughout much of the year generates a lot of passion and enthusiasm. Those with limited space may lean toward creating an urban garden where they share community space with others or rely on container gardening in a small space.

A mental health boost

Growing Veterans notes that gardening provides an essential way for veterans to improve their mental health in an alternative, relaxed setting. The process of gardening can have a significant impact on improving issues related to post traumatic stress disorder, for example, and those with traumatic brain injuries or previous issues with suicidal thinking may find gardening to be useful too.

The process of gardening can be helpful to veterans on multiple levels. Working the land can be significant stress reducer and a source of solace for those still adjusting to civilian life and it has numerous therapeutic benefits too. For example, gardening can provide opportunities to build new social connections. Many find peer support with other gardening veterans and they often get some community engagement as well.

The Christian Science Monitor indicates that gardening has been shown to help veterans with issues of depression and can build their self-esteem. When the gardening involves fruits and vegetables, it also provides a natural opportunity for veterans to improve their diet by embracing healthier foods, and this serves to improve their overall health.

A useful and stimulating distraction

While gardening, veterans can shift their focus to the task at hand which is often a welcome distraction from some of the difficult things they experienced during their service or in their early days back home trying to readjust. Gardening provides valuable brain stimulation and builds problem-solving and creative-thinking skills. As the VA Boston Health System notes, some of the skills that veterans build while gardening become quite useful as they try to seek employment in the traditional workforce.

This is an activity that can provide a sense of accomplishment and ownership, valuable traits that will serve to build up a veteran for the adjustments ahead. The Chicago Tribune explains that the specifics of why gardening has such a therapeutic effect on veterans and many others is not entirely understood, but the benefits are well-documented and substantial.

Some of the changes veterans experience as they garden are subtle and come slowly, but they can be life-changing and quite meaningful. This is a hobby that serves as a great form of physical activity, but it also reduces stress and provides a valuable outlet for veterans to connect with others and cope with readjusting to civilian life. Connecting veterans to gardening may not seem like a natural fit initially, but the benefits are significant and this hobby can be essential to helping veterans succeed in their new lives at home.

Author: Maria Cannon



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