Want to improve your health and mental wellbeing? Getting your hands dirty might well be the answer.
Nature is a powerful balm and you don’t need to be surrounded by acres of countryside to experience its redeeming benefits. Rather, a few hours spent in the garden each week can be all you need to keep your mental wellbeing in check.
Research is showing that being present in the garden, even for a small amount of time, is the perfect antidote to a busy and stressful urban lifestyle. As your mind focuses on the quiet and steady work of digging, weeding or harvesting produce, a kind of mental declutter takes place. Thoughts order themselves and become quiet, allowing stress and anxiety to melt away. And when the mind is quiet, there’s more room for new, creative ideas to form and be heard.
In its simplest form, mindfulness is a heightened state of awareness. This state of being is beneficial for calming the mind, managing stress and learning to live in the moment. Most people associate mindfulness with meditation, but there are many ways you can practice mindful living, with gardening becoming a more popular way of doing so.
There are two main reasons why gardening goes hand-in-hand with mindfulness.
1. The connection between nature and wellbeing
A number of studies have proven the positive relationship between green spaces and mental health. People who spend time in natural environments experience lower levels of stress and anxiety, as well as improved mental health. While achievements such as a nurturing a flower garden may seem small, they actually connect us with something much larger – the energy of the planet and cycle of life within it. That is why the feeling of accomplishment from gardening is endlessly satisfying and hard to find elsewhere in life.
2. Gardening is an act of solitude
As Sigmund Freud said: "Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts." Unlike other environments we are exposed to on a daily basis, the garden is a place for peace and quiet. It demands little and rewards you with beautiful blooms and bountiful produce. Gratitude, solitude and repetitive physical tasks such as potting plants give your mind a chance to rest, allowing you to embrace a peaceful state of being. When this happens, you’ll begin to feel rejuvenated, even if you are physically tired.
So how can you find mindfulness in the garden? Gardens are naturally quiet environments, making them a perfect spot to move into an almost meditative state. Rather than putting on a podcast or music the next time you venture outside, focus on listening to the sounds of rustling leaves and any birdlife. Make an effort to appreciate the different textures of dirt, flowers and foliage, and take note of how much your plants have grown.
These small actions will help you to clear away nagging thoughts and simply appreciate the moment for what it is. After a while, your conscious efforts to engage the senses will become second nature.
Think of gardening in this way and watering or weeding will no longer seem like a chore, but rather a chance to reconnect with the earth and your mind. Your brain will thank you for the time out.