Finding Salvation in Gardening
By James Skinner
Unprecedented times! I am sure we can all repeat this mantra in our sleep.
How then can we make ourselves feel good with minimal exertion and maximum results? Gardening -that’s how!
I am sure that many of you have heard that gardening is beneficial to one’s mental health and wellbeing. Not only can regular gardening reduce depression and anxiety, it can also reduce stress and combat high blood pressure and improve one’s overall physical fitness. So what is it about tending to seedlings and pruning unruly shrubs that make us feel so good?
- Growing plants provide us with responsibility. If you don’t nourish them with water and care, like us, they will wither and die
- Several studies show that immersing ourselves in nature or even just looking at it helps our physical and mental heath. Gardening connects us with nature. Now more than at any other time, people want to feel connected to the natural world. Spending time in green spaces help people to destress and relaxes. In Japan, doctors prescribe “shinrin-yoku” which literally means forest bathing. Call it “Vitamin Green” if you want; but gardening or even short walks in open spaces have the power to reduce anxiety and combat stress which in turn lowers blood pressure and aids sleep
- Gardening is great exercise. Well OK; its hardly the same as running the London Marathon but if like me you have mobility problems, an hour or two amongst the weeds can burn as many calories as thirty minutes in the gym. We all need endorphins to keep up as positive and happy so why not make your regular exercise one which improves and beautifies your immediate surroundings. Go and get yourselves knee deep amongst your roses if you can. It may also help you throw those elasticated jogging bottoms back in the wardrobe if like me your favourite friend right now begins with ‘F’ and rhymes with ‘midge’
- Plants won’t judge you for having a beer on a school night or for eating an extra hot cross bun. Need I say more?
- Gardening is extremely therapeutic. What better way to allay your fears of all things Covid-19 than to focus your mind on the task in hand: be that chopping, weeding, planting or digging. Give your mind a break with some physical activity which provides some much needed white noise for your brain
- Gardening encourages mindfulness as it helps us feel more in tune with seasonal changes which develop with each passing week. This in turn helps alleviate anxiety as gardening can focus your mind on the now and not the future or the past. You don’t need to be Monty Don to know that different plant species flower at different times .Whether it’s looming deadline at work or pervading worries about loved ones, gardening will preoccupy your mind. The startling beauty of a simple daffodil will only be there for a few days so appreciate it whilst it lasts
- What better way to vent your anger and frustration. Failed to get a delivery slot with the supermarket for the fourth week in a row? What better means for for catharsis than to grab your hoe and give the ground a good bashing? Slashing, hacking and digging are the perfect way to improve ones mood. Dare I say it, but destructiveness is actively encouraged in the garden as it prevents plants from overgrowing and keeps encroaching weeds at bay
- If like me, you feel that current events are totally out of your control, getting on top of your garden can place you firmly at the reigns. Whilst you may not be able to go to your favourite restaurant or visit the local gallery, deciding how to arrange your garden pots can provide you with much needed satisfaction
- No outside space –don’t despair? If you live in an urban, built-up area then be creative! You may not want to put your name down for an allotment or help with the local community gardens just yet – but what about turning your windowsills in to a mini Amazonia by creating a seedling nursery with left over plastic food containers? No seeds, no excuse. There are plenty of online YouTube videos which demonstrate how one can grow fruit and vegetables from the remnants of sweetcorn, peppers and avocados etc.
To conclude: in no way I am saying that gardening can allay cabin fever nor can it turn you in to a body beautiful but what it can do is provide you with a calming and tranquil experience which we all need right now . And for those of us who are looking for the holy grail of looking younger, research has found that just a 10 percent increase in people’s exposure to green spaces translates in to an improvement in health equivalent to 5 years.
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