With the New Year here it’s an exciting time for everyone, despite the January blues in the Okanagan. Resolutions and goals have been made, and most of us are doing what we can, to stick to our plans for the year. Amidst all the recommendations out there for “how to realize your resolutions”, I thought I’d add my thoughts on one resolution that really would be worth keeping…and whaddya know…that would be gardening! Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing with you the proven health benefits of gardening in the hope that, if you’d like to do more, or haven’t been drawn to it yet, that you might find it worth exploring more deeply this year.
I’m often teaching about “how to garden” but it’s rare that I talk about WHY it’s worth doing. I got into gardening for so many reasons, and I got hooked back in 2003 while developing a system and gardening-based curriculum for schools in the UK, as my final project at University. My research revealed so many great reasons about why everyone should be gardening and heaps of scientific research with positive results has been done since then. Here are just a few of the reasons why:
– Studies have proven that gardening shares the same general health benefits of meditation including decreased stress, regulated blood pressure and improved mental health
– Gardening is a great way to overcome the ‘nature deficit’ syndrome that most of our urbanized society is experiencing on a daily basis
– Studies have shown that having contact with healthy soil can actually build your immune system
– It is a fact that freshly harvested produce grown at home has more nutrients than store-bought produce; the sugars in many vegetables including peas and beans start turning to starch in a mere 4 hours after harvest.
This week, we will talk about the link between gardening and meditation. One thing I love about gardening is that it can be so relaxing and a great way to clear the mind. I am lucky enough to work mainly from home, and often during the spring and summer I’ll do some gardening during my lunch break; it’s a great way to take your brain down a gear. Likewise, if when you get home from work, you take just a few minutes to thin some plants, or literally stop and smell the flowers, it can help you immensely to de-stress.
According to Clare Cooper- Professor Emeritus, MA, MCP, from the University of California at Berkeley, and one of the founders of environmental psychology, “When you are looking intensely at something, or you bend down to smell something, you bypass the [analytical] function of the mind.” You naturally stop thinking, obsessing and worrying; your senses are awakened, which brings you into the present moment, or as gardeners’ often call it ‘the zone’.
I recommend allowing at least 3-5 minutes of puttering around the veggie beds or flower pots in the time between arriving home and being launched into the after-work errands, dinner or chores. These few minutes will help to place your mind in a more relaxed and open space- it’s the next best thing to stopping completely and meditating…but this way you get some gardening done too!
Next week, we’ll talk more about gardening and stress relief. In the meantime, have a great time dreaming up and planning your gardens for the year…the spring is coming fast – Carpe Diem as they say!