Over the period of lockdown, many of us have been finding ourselves with extra time to spend in our gardens and will have no doubt experienced the many benefits that gardening brings for our bodies and our minds. Today’s Monday Matters post is a collection of reasons why gardening and looking after plants is so good for your wellbeing. At the end of the article, I’ve also included a number of gardening related quotes from poets, famous gardeners, psychologists and other gardening fanatics that I’ve collected and would like to share with you.
Gardening is great exercise
Digging, planting, mowing the lawn, weeding, raking, deadheading and pruning all burn calories, increase flexibility and give your muscles a really good stretch. Some activities are obviously more labour intensive than others, but on average, an hour of gardening has been shown to burn up approximately 300 calories. And what’s more, this form of exercise not only helps your body and strengthens your heart, but also gives you an amazing space to sit it and enjoy the glorious sunny weather we’re currently having.
Mindfulness whilst gardening
Gardening is a great opportunity to practise mindfulness techniques which focus on being aware of the present moment and our current thoughts and feelings and the sensations which we are experiencing. When gardening mindfully, we appreciate the process and use our senses to explore, rather than thinking about the future and worrying about how we are going to get our space looking perfect or Instagram worthy. Before you even collect together your tools and start the jobs on your gardening to-do list, spend some time appreciating your outdoor space, maybe considering all that you have achieved so far or focusing on how grateful you are to have a garden. Use your senses to explore, taking in all of the sights, sounds, smells and sensations such as the bright and colourful flowers, the amazingly active insects as they dart from plant to plant, the different leaf shapes, textures and scents, the birds singing or the breeze gently blowing your hair.
When you do start on the hard work, continue to pause and use your senses to explore your bodily sensations and immediate environment such as the texture of the soil between your fingers, your muscles flexing as you move the mower back and forth on your lawn, the sun warming your skin, the water sprinkling the ground as you use your watering can, or the array of different plant shapes and petal colours in your borders.
Focusing on the present will help you to slow down and take a break from the fast pace of modern life. It will also enable you to forget about all of your various stresses and anxieties for a while as you really concentrate on what you are doing and how it is making you feel. In this way, gardening becomes a kind of meditation which is amazing for your mental wellbeing.
Gardening in the sunshine
It’s well known that to much sunshine can be harmful for your skin but as long as you apply an appropriate level of sun cream and seek shade during the middle of the day, the sunlight can have lots of mood lifting and health benefits. It is believed that exposure to the sun increases the release of seretonin in the brain which makes you feel happier, calmer and more focused. Vitamin D is also produced by your body naturally in response to sunlight and this has a number of benefits including regulating your wake and sleep cycle, improved immunity, stronger muscles, reduced inflammation, reduced risk of osteoperosis, reduced risk of some forms of cancer and reduced risk of type 2 diabeties.
Getting in touch with your creative side
Gardening is a great way to express yourself creatively. You get to decide on a design for your garden based on your budget and the space you have available to you including the kind of areas you wish to have such as somewhere to sit and relax or dine al fresco to fruit and vegetable patches or wildlife havens. When you’ve learnt about the type of soil you have, planting times and which areas of your garden get the sun and at what time, the fun of visiting garden centres to choose plants or packets of seeds to grow your own begins. You can select the colours you find appealing for flowering plants and spend time reading different labels to establish which plants are best suited to each garden condition. Even if you don’t have flower beds, you can choose from a huge array of pots and containers to put on your patio to create a container garden.
What if I don’t have a garden?
If you don’t have access to your own garden, don’t fear, you can still benefit from plants and nature in a number of ways. Most garden centres have now re-opened whilst keeping to social distancing rules and many supermarkets are stocking a range of houseplants making it really easy to bring beautiful greenery into your home environment.
Another way of brightening up your space is by treating yourself to a bouquet of fresh cut flowers of your favourite blooms. Again, these can easily be found in your local supermarket and a good quality bunch should be guaranteed to last for at least seven days.
If you’re feeling creative, you could also make a pretty collage of plant images collected online. I did this last month to go with my succulents theme in my bullet journal. Basically, I went onto Unsplash and Pexel and searched for cacti and other succulents and then printed off some of my favourite images on photo paper. Then I stuck them into my journal and added some decor using my brush pens and some stickers. Just looking at the spreads brightens my mood.
Finally, here’s those quotes I mentioned which I think are really motivational and thought provoking at the same time:
‘Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years.’ – Author unknown
‘A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.’ – Gertrude Jekyll (British garden designer, writer and artist)
‘We might think we are nurturing out garden, but of course it’s our garden that is really nurturing us.’ Jenny Uglow (British biographer, historian, critic and publisher)
‘Gardening: It grounds us… gets us out of our busy heads and back into our bodies. Alone there on our knees, we can breathe. With our nurturing hands duly occupied, while gardening we allow ourselves the time & space to truly feel – peace, pride, satisfaction, joy.’ Cardthartic Birthday card (cardthartic.com)
‘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 (English poet)
‘By becoming in tune with the seasons of growth and fall, preparation and harvest you make your mind and your body happier and healthier. By having a direct stake and involvement with the process of plants growing, of having your hands in the soil and tending it carefully and with love, your world and everyone else’s world too, becomes a better place.’ Monty Don (Gardeners World presenter and keen horticulturist)
‘Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts.’ – Sigmund Freud (Austrian Psychologist)
‘Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.’ Mary Sarton (American poet)
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the many health benefits of gardening and my post has encouraged you to get outdoors and spend time in your own outside space or even visit one of your local parks to have a picnic and appreciate the floral displays and plants there. Let me know in the comments what your favourite aspects of gardening are and what you’ve been getting up to over the last few months.