A lot of people describe bonsai as being very therapeutic. I wanted to find out if there are any specific ways that growing and caring for bonsai trees could actually have health benefits.
So, is growing bonsai trees good for your health? The health benefits of bonsai as a leisure activity don’t seem to have been studied directly. However, research on this type of leisure activity has found that activities like growing and caring for bonsai trees can contribute to your health by helping to cope with stress and negative life events. Also, leisure activities like caring for bonsai trees can help us to overcome illness and disability. The benefits seem to extend across a range of ages.
This means that having a hobby, and doing bonsai in particular, could provide us with health benefits. From this we can explore the ways in which growing bonsai trees could be good for your health.
Leisure Activities are Good for Your Health
As I mentioned above, before we start to look at the potential benefits of growing and caring for bonsai trees we should look at why leisure activities in general are good for your health.
There’s actually quite a bit of evidence on this. Leisure activities can contribute to physical, social, emotional, and cognitive health. A lot of the research done in the last twenty years has looked at why some people stay healthy and tend to thrive despite having to deal with difficult life events.
The focus of a lot of studies on leisure activities has been on the benefits of exercise. For example, sports activities of various kinds that can increase the heart rate, help people control their weight, maintain flexibility and balance, improve sleep patterns and enhance mental health.
Now researchers are starting to look more closely at non-physically active leisure activities and their effects on physical and mental health.
An interesting finding has been that when people are engaged in an activity that is not physically demanding, but that is associated with achieving something, they become more positive in their outlook.
In contrast with the above, people engaged in similarly passive activities that leave them uninvolved in the process tend towards a negative outlook. An example of such an activity that leaves people uninvolved, and tending to be negative about things, is watching television. So that’s worth thinking about.
Leisure and Work-Related Stress
Work-related stress can take a number of forms. For example, you could have a job that is so demanding that you feel like you just can’t cope. Or, you have a job that is so undemanding that it leaves you bored and unfulfilled. Or, you have no job at all, and the stress comes from worrying about your financial situation.
The type of non-physically demanding leisure activities that we looked at earlier have been shown to help people deal with the stress of a demanding job. Also, people being engaged in a leisure activity that is internally meaningful to them can help them to cope with the stress of a pointless, undemanding job too.
Most interesting is that if unemployed people are engaged in internally meaningful leisure activities, then this can actually help to enhance their chances of re-employment in future. This is when compared to time-consuming but meaningless activities like watching television. Watching television is turning out to be quite an unhelpful activity.
The Health Benefits of Leisure Activities
In addition to the points above, these non-physically demanding leisure activities can benefit people who ill or disabled, and can help with healthy ageing.
Some of the ways that these activities can help people include:
- Enabling people to engage in meaningful activities
- Gain social support and acceptance
- Challenge and absorption in the activity
- A feeling of being in control
- Being distracted from worrying issues and problems
- Provide continuity where other aspects of life have been disrupted
Why Growing Bonsai Trees is Good for Your Health
But aren’t we supposed be looking at the health benefits of growing bonsai trees?
Well, growing and caring for bonsai trees is just the type of non-physically demanding leisure activity that we’ve been talking about.
Whether you’re growing bonsai trees from seed, growing them from seedlings, or you have bought a ready-made bonsai tree, you will be engaging in activities that bring the health benefits we’ve been talking about.
Bonsai Can Improve Your Mood
Researchers have found that just looking at bonsai trees and enjoying them as art can make people feel happy. So you don’t even have to be growing or caring for the bonsai trees yourself to be able to enjoy some of the benefits of bonsai.
Researchers have also looked into the ways that growing and caring for bonsai trees can positively affect the moods that people experience.
A survey of around 250 bonsai enthusiasts reported that more than 90% of them found that working on their bonsais had a positive effect on their mood.
The authors of the study concluded that working with bonsai trees can help people to turn their feelings to pleasant thoughts, with the tree serving as a distraction and focus of the meaningful activity.
Bonsai and Flow States
This fits with the idea of “flow”, where people have a feeling of being “at one” with the activity. They become absorbed and unaware of the passing of time. People are most likely to experience “flow” when they are getting clear feedback about what they are doing and there is some structure to the activity.
All of the above would be true when involved in growing and caring for bonsai trees. The activity allows your subconscious mind to take over, without conscious thoughts and worries bothering you for a while.
This is one reason why bonsai can help people who are otherwise unoccupied to fill their time productively and avoid boredom.
People who might potentially benefit would be retired or unemployed people, who would be able to fill their time productively. Bonsai is an inexpensive hobby, there should be not barriers due to cost.
Others who might benefit from doing bonsai could be people who are ill or recovering from injury. Growing and caring for bonsai doesn’t require much strength, fitness or mobility, and could be done by people with a variety of health issues.
People who are ill, especially long-term illness, can become depressed. A meaningful, rewarding leisure activity like bonsai could certainly help to avoid this and help these people to develop a more positive outlook.
Is Bonsai Like Gardening in Miniature?
It could be said that growing and caring for bonsai trees is like miniature gardening. This means we can look at the health benefits of gardening in general and apply them to bonsai.
Various research studies have found that gardening can increase satisfaction with life, psychological wellbeing, sense of community, and cognitive function, which can be particularly important as we get older. It’s also been found that gardening can reduce stress, anger, fatigue, depression and anxiety.
As a result, doing gardening is becoming recognised as a beneficial health intervention, plus an effective treatment for occupational or psychological health issues.
If you compare gardening in general with doing bonsai , then there would be many similarities between the two. Gardening will probably involve more physical activity and maybe enable people to get more fresh air, since bonsai be grown indoors. However, many of the benefits that have been shown to come from gardening could be obtained from bonsai too.
Would Your Health Benefit from Doing Bonsai?
So, if you’re already doing bonsai it looks as if you are involved in a leisure activity that could provide you with a number of health benefits. You are probably already aware of some of the health benefits we’ve been talking about.
If you’re not already doing bonsai, then maybe this is something you could consider from a health perspective. It’s great fun and very rewarding. It’s a hobby you can just lose yourself in for a long or short period of time. You don’t need much space or any expensive equipment, so it’s available to most people. Plus, it can provide a number of health benefits. So, what are you waiting for?