7 Ways Gardening is Good for Your Mental Health
When I was a kid everyone had a vegetable garden in their back yard. It was an economic necessity for our family of eight kids, as it was for many families of the time. Every spring one of us kids would lose our boots, stuck deep in the mud of last year's garden. Kids and mud – so compatible! Gardening for me today is less about economic necessity and more about health: physical and mental. Taste is also a motivator. One of the positive outcomes of the pandemic is the return to nature and a simpler life. Maybe we knew subconsciously what was good for us and would keep us together mentally. Getting our hands dirty offers unlimited benefits and rewards.
How Gardening helps you Mentally
- Nurturing in Nature – There is plenty of evidence to show the healing effects of being in, and connected to nature. You know what I'm talking about. Growing food gets you out the door because those plants need you.
- Mindfulness Break – Weeding and watering is not something you can rush through. You might as well take your time and attention to appreciate what you're doing for those plants, and notice what you're doing for yourself.
- Use your senses – Handle the soil – without gloves. Taste the carrot you just pulled. Hear the birds. See the infinite varieties of green. Rub the tomato leaves and then smell your hands. Divine.
- Letting go – You still can't control the weather so you might as well let go of any expected outcomes or perceived failures. Perfectionists, are you listening? Every year's bounty is different. Sometimes the slugs get more than you do. Focus on the process and the learning and let the results take the back seat.
- Sharing – Many times you will have more of something than you can eat in a certain timeframe. Share the bounty with neighbours and friends. Their gratitude and enthusiasm will light you up too.
- Gratitude – If there was ever a time to give thanks before a meal it's when you're eating your own produce. You won't find this flavour and texture at the supermarket. Feeling gratitude is a well-known strategy for enhancing wellbeing.
- Celebrating success - Though the water, seeds, soil, and sunshine do the heavy lifting, personal effort is also required. Allow this little miracle of growing food to fill you up. (Pun intended.)
Maybe having a garden seems out of reach. We do the best we can, right? Times have changed with families being busier than ever and double garages taking up would-be garden space. Has this piqued your interest?
Here are a few ideas to help you get started.
- If you're short on space, or courage, start small with a tomato plant or strawberries in large pots. You can grow almost anything in a pot.
- Mix vegetables like lettuce or swiss chard in with the flowers. They're beautiful too.
- Convert a flowerbed to a vegetable garden. • Dig up some lawn to create a garden plot.
- Build or purchase a raised bed for easy access and easy beginning.
- Purposely grow different crops than your neighbor and exchange produce.
- Share a plot with a neighbor for shared work.
Growing your own food will contribute positively to your mental health and your physical health too. We haven't even talked about nutrition, which has a huge impact. But that's a whole other story.
Of course the bending, stretching, squatting, digging and hoeing provide valuable benefits too - the bigger your garden, the smaller your behind.