Remember the hours we spent as children playing in the sandbox? We were carefree, relaxed, dirty and happy. Though we’re grown now, we can still experience that same feeling with gardening. Only this time, we even may have something beautiful to show for it.

Many studies show that looking at beautiful scenery or walking through a garden reduces stress levels. By digging in and actively participating in gardening, you not only feel more relaxed, but you also have a sense of accomplishment of a job well done. The key to using gardening in a therapeutic manner is keeping it easy. In other words, don’t look at it as a chore, but rather an escape from your everyday to-do list. Do as little or as much as you feel like. When it starts to feel like a burden, walk away and come back another time.

Playing in the DirtIn addition to reducing stress, you also can burn a few calories while gardening. Obviously, more energetic activities such as digging or mowing the lawn will burn more calories than weeding a flowerbed. Nonetheless, every movement burns calories, regardless of the intensity or duration. Gardening also provides mental exercise as well. For example, focusing on flower placement or learning how to create a compost pile stimulates the mind, thus promoting good mental health.

Think you can’t enjoy gardening because you live in an apartment or townhouse with a yard the size of a postage stamp? Not to worry. The benefits of gardening can be enjoyed regardless of yard size or lack thereof. Growing plants in containers or caring and maintaining houseplants offer the same benefits as working in a yard. For those folks who want to work in a yard but don’t have one of their own, why not volunteer to work in a local community garden or perhaps help an older friend or relative maintain his or her garden?

You don’t need a green thumb to reap the benefits of gardening. It’s not the results that count – though they can be a beautiful bonus – but the process of gardening that makes it a great escape.