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The next time you feel stressed, don’t reach for a sugary snack. Grab the gardening shears instead! Various studies have proven that gardening and stress relief go hand in hand. A study published in the Journal of Health Psychology reported that gardening was more effective at reducing stress than reading a book. Another study that appeared in the Journal of Public Health found that working in a garden for just 30 minutes increased self-esteem and mood. The Health Benefits of Gardening So, why does gardening provide relief from stress? - Exercise: Digging, weeding, planting and harvesting are all physical activities that release endorphins and help keep you fit. - Time in the fresh air and sunlight: When you’re outside, your body enjoys fresh, clean air and your skin soaks up vitamin D from the sun. Just remember to wear sunscreen! - Provides nutritious food: If you grow vegetables, you’re more likely to eat a healthy diet. And when your body is healthy, you’re better able to manage everyday stresses. Tips for Getting Started Ready to start gardening? Here are four ideas: - Plant a vegetable garden at home. You don’t need much space to plant a garden. A small area in your yard where you can grow a few vegetables is a good start. Start with easy-to-grow vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes and bell peppers. - Or grow flowers instead. Try planting flowers in your yard or in hanging baskets. Good options to start with include clematis, petunias and geraniums. - Don’t have a yard? Try container gardening. Check out our guide to getting started. - Join a community garden. A community garden is a piece of land collectively gardened by a group of people. Each community garden works differently: some grow vegetables, some flowers. Some exist as one single plot where everyone pitches in while others allow people to rent individual plots. In Tennessee, you’ll find various types of community gardens across the state. Neighborhood gardens like the Tree Streets Garden project in Johnson City allow residents to grow and harvest flowers, herbs and vegetables in a common plot. The Rest Community Garden in Memphis brings together seniors and youth to grow vegetables at a church. And the Sylvan Street Garden in Nashville utilizes public park space where local residents can grow food. Have you tried gardening? Offer your tips for beginners below!