Benefits

when you get ready to plant again this year, a photo journal along with written records can make you a more effective and efficient gardener.

Those journals are handy reviews of what to plant again and what to forego. Notes written by hand or typed on your computer will also give you another benefit. When you keep track of your gardening accomplishments, you’re apt to better remember the details.

And what’s more, you’ll be boosting your brain health by sharpening your memory and recall skills.

Mood booster

Gardening has proven to be a good way to change your mood for the better.

A Norwegian study followed participants with mood disorders who spent six hours a week growing flowers and vegetables.

After three months, half of the participants had experienced a measurable improvement in their depression symptoms. Even after they stopped gardening, their good moods continued three months after the gardening experiment was over.

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Eat fresh

Growing your own food has the obvious benefit of being able to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables. Several studies have shown that people who garden eat more fresh fruits and vegetables than people who don’t have home gardens.

Growing your own garden also gives you the convenience of trying new things. You may not buy arugula at the grocery store but now that you’re having success with it at home, it stretches your thinking—what else could you plant that you’ve never thought about before?

Make room for executive function

Gardening, like many activities, can be good for you once you get going, but sometimes we all need extra motivation to accomplish our goals.

Don’t blame your willpower for not getting outside and gardening. Instead, research has found that if you have poor executive decision, you may not stick to goals compared to people with excellent executive functions.

Executive function includes such things as planning and being able to thoroughly consider options in front of you; it also includes having a prospective memory. That is defined as having a sharp recall ability to remember to do things or say “no” to other things like becoming sedentary instead of getting exercise.

The message is clear. When you take care of your brain health you will have better willpower. Cognitive performance, memory and willpower go hand-in-hand.

The great outdoors is yours to enjoy and with the added support of great nutrition and executive function, you’re on your way to better brain health.

(Underwood is a neuroscience researcher, president and co-founder of Quincy Bioscience in Madison: www.quincybioscience.com.)