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When the World Feels Scary, I Want to Garden. Here's What to Plant Right Now

These are hunker-down times—bitter politics, scary viruses, gun violence—but there’s one proven way I help save my sanity: Find a sunny spot and plant a garden.

I’m not the only one.

“It’s something proactive all of us can do, whether on our windowsill, patio or yard,” agreed urban farmer Lauri Kranz, creator of Edible Gardens LA and co-author of “A Garden Can Be Anywhere.” “When you feel like everything is out of control, what nurtures better than planting a seed, with the promise of bounty and health that comes with it?”

The evidence is more than anecdotal.

Multiple studies indicate that getting our hands in the soil and helping plants grow improves longevity and health, as well our mental well-being. Researchers in the Netherlands gave a test group a 30-minute stressful activity and then randomly assigned them to garden outside or read a book indoors. The study found that both activities reduced the cortisol levels that trigger stress, but the people who gardened saw much lower cortisol levels and their positive mood restored, as opposed to the readers, whose moods got worse.

Pre-order Ronnie's New Book, Coming February 11

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