The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.— Alfred Austin
A couple months ago, I was in a bad place mentally. Lockdown living was keeping me safe, but not helping me thrive. I had all the time to write and paint and bake and do all the things I love, but I was still feeling glum most of the time.
Then something changed.
The weather got better and my family decided it was time to renovate the garden right in front of our house. It wasn’t much of a garden at all. It was a boxwood lined area covered in periwinkles dotted with some shrubbery. It didn’t look bad, per se. But, it significantly lacked inspiration. We’d been talking about it during the winter and even with the virus running rampant, we were still able to do what we needed.
Physical labour was needed to remove the hedges and shrubs and, I don’t know what it was, whether the sunshine or getting dirty or being active, I felt amazing afterwards. After digging up boxwood roots, I’d be exhausted and sweaty and covered in dirt, but I was satisfied. Satisfied in a deep way I didn’t understand; as if I connected with something primal inside. It was like digging in the dirt had connected me with nature in a way that I hadn’t experienced before.
The garden quickly became my passion project.
Planning, designing, and working on the garden gave me something to think about, while spending time with plants and generally spending more time outside did wonders for my mental health. My feelings of helplessness and apathy began to lessen significantly.
Now, this was my first major foray into the gardening world. My mother is the gardener of the family and, until fairly recently, my interest had been lukewarm at best. But as I’ve been exploring a slower-paced lifestyle, gardening has become more important. I’d love to be able to grow my own food someday. Perhaps even own some chickens.
Since, I have learned how beneficial gardening can be to my wellbeing.
Bathe in the Green
It might seem a little obvious, but there are many benefits to spending time in natural landscapes. With the research done on the Japanese practice of Forest Bathing, it’s not hard to see how being outside is good for the soul.
Gardening is especially good because it’s just outside or front or back door. A mere couple steps to your own personal green oasis. You can surround yourself with all the plants that make you happy.
I think humans need to have a connection to our natural surroundings in order to feel the most human. But, that might just be me.
Fresh air is important.
Dig in the dirt
Carrying plants, digging holes, and all the other things one does when gardening all counts as exercise! It might not be the same sort as going to a CrossFit gym, but low-level exercise with varied motions and movements over a longer period of time can be just as beneficial.
And, what appeals to me is, it’s purposeful. I’m not just moving my body for this abstract idea of “health” that is sometimes easily ignored in order to sit on my couch and do nothing, but I’m doing something that I want to be doing. The exercise is a bonus.
It’s been proven that being present in the moment and mindful is beneficial and the garden can be our own sanctuary of mindfulness. There, we can practice focusing on what we are doing in the moment, instead of all the stressors that are waiting for us to think about.
Smell the flowers, listen to the birds, feel the dirt under your hands. Let yourself embrace all that your senses are feeling.
“The lesson I have thoroughly learnt, and wish to pass on to others, is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives. ”⎯ Gertrude Jekyll
There’s just something about gardening that I never realized before I started doing it myself. Even now that the garden is mostly “done” (though, I’d argue a true garden is never done) I find myself always wanting to work on it.
A garden is like a living organism and can be continuously worked on and changed, but don’t forget to enjoy your hard work and the beautiful space created. Take some time to be still in your natural oasis.
I may have just started gardening, but I think this is the start of a great mindful hobby!