Wonder what the people with the longest life spans from Japan, Costa Rica, Greece, California, and Italy have in common? Gardening. Yup, aside from social support, healthy exercise habits, and proper diet, many of the longest-lived people in the world engage in gardening.

Gardening is both beneficial to physical and mental health. A Dutch study showed that gardening lowered levels of cortisol (hormones responsible for stress) and made participants feel ‘fully restored.’ An Australian research said that people in their 60s that gardened had 36% lower dementia risk than those who did not.

Dr. Bradley Willcox from the University of Hawaii studied people in Okinawa, Japan. This particular region has one of the highest numbers of 100-year olds. It is rooted in their culture to have ikigai, or a reason for living, and for some, that is gardening. They also benefit from yuimaru, or a high level of social connectedness in gardening, when they sell their produce in the market and interact with other people.

Being with nature is actually helpful to some patients experiencing high blood pressure and anxiety, so much so that doctors in Scotland put it in their prescriptions. Gardening, a way of interacting with nature, may help in improving overall health and happiness. Aside from contact with greenery, a plant-based diet can add to being healthy. Gardening does not ensure reaching centenary, but it can provide balance in one’s life.

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