If you are looking for a way to find meaning and purpose during these days of physical isolation, look no further than your backyard. Even if you think you don’t have a “green thumb,” now is the perfect time to experiment with some form of gardening; flowers, vegetables, fruits, berries or herbs. The benefits of growing a garden go far beyond the nutritional value of homegrown food and the opportunity to easily increase your fruit and veggie intake. Getting outside in nature can reduce stress, clear your mind, get your body moving and your spirit soaring. At any age, gardening is good for your health; mind, body and spirit.
Gardening for the Mind
Research has shown that gardening is a great mood elevator. It can reduce our stress, anxiety and depression, can lower our risk of dementia, can help our bodies heal, and increase happiness.
The relaxation from gardening can reduce the stress hormone, cortisol.
Gardeners report entering a state of mindfulness or flow—a blissful, Zen-like meditative state.
Gardeners tend to be life-long learners, always looking for new varieties and methods.
Gardening forces us to relinquish perfectionism and become comfortable with what nature provides for us.
Gardening for the Body
We can engage all of our senses with a sensory garden—-the smell of aromatic herbs and flowers, the sound of the birds, bees, fountains or windchimes, the sight of a spectacular color palette of flowers and butterflies, the taste of the first ripe tomato or blueberries, and the feel of the warm soil in your hands and you carefully till the soil and plant your seeds.
The fresh air, exercise and sunshine can improve your sleep and give you a healthy dose of vitamin D. Remember you only need 15-30 minutes of sun exposure and then get on the sunscreen.
Gardening gives us a chance to exercise with a purpose. We know we will increase our exercise duration if we are having fun and gardening can be a whole-body workout; strength, flexibility, balance, dexterity, and endurance.
Of course, most of our food is at its highest nutritional potency when grown close to home and prepared as quickly as possible. Kids may also learn to like veggies they have grown themselves.
Gardening for the Spirit
Gardening teaches patience, perseverance and creativity. It teaches us to slow down and gives us time for quiet reflection to renew and restore our spirit.
Gardening reminds us of the life cycle and our interconnectedness with the natural world.
When we till the soil, plant a small seed, and nurture it with a little love, we are demonstrating faith and hope for the future. Faith and hope are always a good thing.
Whether you decide to dig up part of your yard for a large garden plot, build or purchase a few raised beds, try container gardening on your patio or grow an herb garden on your windowsill, there has never been a better time to dig in and get growing for the health of your mind, body and spirit!
~Linda M. Peterson, PhD, Life Purpose and Wellness Coach