Tyra Howes, Sustainable Food Eco-Rep

Eight in ten college students say they have sometimes or frequently experienced stress in their daily lives over the past three months. Gardening can help reduce that stress. Planting is about connecting to the earth and the rhythms of life. Gardening offers a reminder of what is important in life: food, water, warmth, loving attention, and room to grow. Gardening has many stress relieving effects from decreasing cortisol levels (a stress hormone) to gaining a positive mood and being more mindful. Read on for six benefits of gardening at home or even here on campus!

Physical Activity

Physical activity reduces your risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, depression, and many more medical issues. Think of gardening as a hobby, not a chore. The exercise related to gardening will then be considered fun and exciting.


Gardening can promote nutrition because it is hard work to grow your own fruits and vegetables. Being successful can make the gardener excited to eat what they have grown. People also get creative and try different recipes with the food they grow.


Gardening exposes you to fresh air and sunlight, which are mood boosters and can trigger a happy response in the brain. Low blood levels of vitamin D are linked to signs of depression. Spending some time outside can boost your mood while helping maintain strong bones and a healthy heart.


Gardening makes you more mindful. Sometimes gardening can be repetitive and focused which offers some time for contemplation. When in the mindset of gardening, try not to look at your phone. This simple act allows time for your brain to take a break and live in the moment. Creating a positive garden mantra can help being more mindful while gardening.


We plant seeds in hope that they will grow. Gardening can help you to learn more about nature and feel more connected to the earth. Nurturing plants can help take the focus away from ourselves which can be valuable in high anxiety and stressful times.

Community Gardens

Community gardens promote stress reduction by making connections, meeting new people, and being surrounded by different plants. The USM community garden was started on the Portland campus in 2007 by a school group. They changed an old, unused playground into a place to provide plots for students, staff, and alumni that live in the area. The community garden provides a place for many different people who have the same interests to come together and work on making the campus more sustainable. The food services for the school and many school groups have plots to provide for students, focusing on those who are food insecure.

If you would like to learn about getting a plot this spring, email: [email protected]  You can also catch up on garden news by following the Facebook page USM Office of Sustainability.


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