We've known for some time that gardening is a therapeutic exercise. Studies show time and time again that getting down into the dirt triggers "happy hormones" that help ward off depression and anxiety.
In addition, the beneficial bacteria in gardening dirt can boost our immune systems and may even make us smarter in the long run, experts say.
Now Chicago researchers state that inner-city girls who were are able to look at and experience greenery directly from their homes for a period of time showed improved attentiveness and were better at self-regulation in a number of areas in a survey by parents.
Researchers theorize that boys spend less time in and around their homes and therefore were apparently unaffected in the areas of self-regulation and delay of gratification than girls based on how natural their home surroundings appeared.
The paper, "Views of Nature and Self-Discipline: Evidence From Inner-City Children," conducted by Andrea Faber-Taylor, Frances E. Kuo, and William C. Sullivan, studied 196 inner-city girls and boys.
The children were assigned architecturally identical locales with different levels of nature nearby, within view.
Parents were asked to rate their children in a number of areas.
Girls showed a more marked difference (20%) depending upon the level of nature they had within view, but both sexes displayed improvements in:
Boys showed "no difference at all," according to researchers, who say boys are generally less involved in the home and spend more time away from it.
However, the marked difference for girls between a natural and more urban setting was significant.
"These findings suggest that, for girls, green space immediately outside the home can help them lead more effective, self-disciplined lives," study authors said.
The findings are significant, but other studies have shown both males and females to be more or less equally affected by gardening in positive ways.
This means that no matter what, any child may benefit from a greener environment and specifically, from the experience of gardening.
Taking your child to greenery if you live in an urban environment, and getting outside more often even if you live among the trees, is critical to any child's development. Gardening is an activity enjoyed by both genders and any age group, so get your children planting, whether it's a full-scale walk-through garden, a community garden plot, or potted plants on the windowsill.
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