5 Reasons Mowing Your Lawn Makes You Happy, According to Science
Here's how to mow your way to a better mood.
Mowing your lawn may technically be a chore, but for many, it's a labor of love. And if you've ever noticed the distinct mood boost that comes from mowing, you may be wondering exactly how something as simple as a little yard work could make you feel so happy. It turns out there are several science-backed reasons that cutting your grass is linked with better mental well-being. Read on to learn the five reasons mowing your lawn makes you happy, according to wide-ranging research and mental health experts.
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Why mowing your lawn makes you happy.
1. Mowing your lawn can improve your health.
Mowing your lawn—especially if you use a manual mower—is a lot of hard work. It provides weekly physical exercise, which can enhance your overall health and well-being, according to Ryan Hetrick, a therapist, co-founder and CEO of the outpatient addiction treatment center Epiphany Wellness.
"Regular physical activity has been linked to improved mood, increased energy levels, and a greater sense of happiness," he says.
In fact, a 2020 study published in the journal Sage Open Medicine says that when older adults actively engage with their home gardens and lawns, the health benefits abound.
The researchers note that physical activity while "gardening"—defined for the purposes of the study as any activity that involves tending outdoor plants, "such as cultivating plants, mowing lawns, weeding and raking"—can help prevent osteoporosis, certain cancers, Type 2 diabetes, depression, heart disease, and more.
2. It can also give you a sense of pride and accomplishment.
According to Hetrick, mowing your lawn may also make you happier by giving you a sense of pride and accomplishment.
"Finishing a big task like mowing the lawn produces a feeling of accomplishment. This can provide a sense of pride, and give you a psychological boost," he tells Best Life.
There's a good explanation for that feeling of achievement, reports Scientific American: A well-maintained lawn isn't easy to come by. "Lawns are indicative of success; they are a physical manifestation of the American Dream of home ownership," says a 2017 article.
"To have a well maintained lawn is a sign to others that you have the time and/or the money to support this attraction. It signifies that you care about belonging and want others to see that you are like them. A properly maintained lawn tells others you are a good neighbor," the author adds.
3. Mowing your lawn can help you stay more socially connected.
A feeling of social connectedness is integral to our mental health and well-being. In fact, according to Stanford Medicine, "good social relationships are the most consistent predictor of a happy life."
Though the majority of scientific research on the subject has focused on the benefits of maintaining meaningful ties to family members or close friends, new research suggests that even peripheral ties to acquaintances can help boost your mood and stave off depression.
Hetrick says that mowing your lawn may make you more likely to cultivate these connections, bit by bit. "It offers an opportunity to socialize with neighbors or friends who may be out in their yards at the same time as you."
"Even if it is just a friendly wave or quick hello, these brief interactions can make you feel more connected to your community and put a smile on your face," he adds.
4. Being in nature while mowing can also help boost your mood.
You probably don't need research to tell you that spending time in nature can help boost your mood. However, a 2021 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health confirms that exposure to natural environments—even those as near as your front lawn—can help elicit more positive emotions.
One theory that helps to explain the link between nature and happiness is known as Attention Restoration Theory (ART), the researchers explain. This theory "posits that the mental fatigue associated with modern life is associated with a depleted capacity to direct attention," which can impact one's mood over time.
"According to this theory, spending time in natural environments enables people to overcome this mental fatigue and to restore the capacity to direct attention," the study states.
Hetrick adds that mowing your lawn offers a chance to restore your focus, using cues from the natural world to help you recenter.
"As you mow the lawn, it may be easier to appreciate the beauty of nature around you," he says. "Listening to birds chirp, watching wildlife move about, and feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin can all contribute to a more positive mood."
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5. Mowing your lawn can help lower your stress levels.
There's a second theory explaining how being in nature may improve mood, and it's known as the Stress Reduction Theory (SRT). According to the researchers, "spending time in nature might influence feelings or emotions by activating the parasympathetic nervous system to reduce stress and autonomic arousal because of people's innate connection to the natural world."
In other words, being in nature can have a physically calming effect by helping to tamp down our natural stress responses.
Another study, published in 2009 by researchers at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, adds that the chemicals released by freshly cut grass may further help relieve stress by stimulating the amygdala and the hippocampus.
"These two areas [of the brain] are responsible for the flight or fight response and the endocrine system, which controls the releasing of stress hormones like corticosteroids," the researchers told The Daily Mail at the time of the study's release.
Hetrick adds that simply stepping away from your day-to-day tasks to mow your lawn can provide an opportunity for mental relaxation.
"Taking a break from work or other stressors in life and focusing on a simple task like mowing the lawn can help reduce stress and improve your mood," he tells Best Life.