Therapeutic Benefits of Gardening

There is nothing quite like deeply inhaling the dusky, warm scent of a rose in full bloom, or running your fingers through soft, warm potting compost.

Benefits: The benefits of being in nature are well documented; stress reduction, lowered blood pressure, and an increased sense of well-being. So it is with gardening. Really getting in there and getting your hands dirty, takes these healing benefits to a much deeper level. Gardening is a way to reconnect with Mother Nature and our deepest self. Working on the land literally grounds you in the here and now, and offers a sensory, healing session like no other. Focusing on the task in hand is a form of mindfulness and meditation. It forces unwanted worries and thoughts out of your head, leaving no room for negative thoughts and feelings. The benefits of even occasional, light gardening include; inhaling fresh air, increased focus and mental clarity, enhanced creative expression, and increased flexibility and mobility.

My story: Four years ago I was working in retail management. I enjoyed the job, but had become frustrated with working for someone else. I became increasingly disillusioned with my role, which was fundamentally about making money. As a non-materialistic person, I had become stressed and depressed, and realised that I was working in an environment that was destroying my soul instead of feeding it. Eventually, I reached the point where I knew something had to change. I sat down and made a list of what I needed to make me happy. I needed something that was stress-free, independent, enjoyable and preferably outdoors. So I left my job and started my own gardening business.

Within a few weeks I was more relaxed, I felt a sense of purpose and well-being, I felt free from pressure and obligation and I experienced a renewed interest in life. Being a natural hermit, I enjoyed meeting new people, but working alone. The health benefits were soon apparent. I became more physically flexible and began to breathe deeper. This increases relaxation and is much better for your health. My tension headaches largely disappeared, and my overall strength and stamina began to increase. Interestingly, my chronic back pain improved dramatically. Today, my only regret is that I didn’t make this change earlier.

What you can do: I’m not expecting you all to ditch your jobs and take up gardening full-time, but I would encourage everyone from the age of eight to eighty to spend some time outside, creating colour in your garden, tubs or window boxes. Whatever your physical ability, you can do something to enhance your mental and emotional well-being, by working with the soil. Just being outside, breathing fresh air and feeling the warmth of the sunshine, helps clear the mind and rejuvenate the spirit.

Creating a colour rich and sensory environment enhances creativity and stimulates the pleasure centre of your brain. This leads to increased feelings of well-being and satisfaction in a job well done. Colourful gardens bring pleasure to everyone who sees them, and a sense of achievement for yourself. They are also beneficial to birds, bees and other wildlife.

How to get started: Start small – it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you first start out. Remember that whatever you plant need feeding, weeding and watering, so ease yourself into it!
All you need are a few pots (if you have no garden), multi-purpose compost, hand fork and trowel, and some general plant feed such as Miracle-Gro or Tomorite. I always prefer to buy flowers, herbs and vegetables from young plants, rather than grow from seeds. Although more expensive, you have instant results and can monitor their progress.

Flowers: Early spring: plant primroses, primulas and early flowering spring bulbs and crocuses. Spring/summer: garden centres are full of beautiful bedding plants like begonias that add a mass of long lasting, vibrant colours, from spring through to late autumn, if fed fortnightly. Winter blues? plant up tubs of snowdrops, dwarf daffodils and narcissi and early flowering crocuses. These have a wonderful January and early February show. Sweet peas (non-edible) growing up a simple structure of bamboo rods make a stunning, highly scented summer display. They can be picked for the table and will regenerate.

Importance of Colour: Colour influences the emotions and feelings: reds, oranges and yellows stimulate energy creativity and happiness, so plant near communal areas. Lemon yellow, golden colours and creams are uplifting and stimulating. Purple colours, dusky pinks, rusty reds and terracottas feel warm, mellow and luxurious, so plant in areas where you want to relax. Pale blues, soft pastel colours, white and silver are relaxing and calming. Experiment with colours and go with how they make you feel.

Importance of Scent Our sense of smell is directly linked to pleasure and memory. The scent of Lavender and Lilly of the Valley will always remind me of my mother, as she wore these perfumes. So select flowers that evoke a positive emotion or memory for you.

Herbs: If you enjoy cooking, why not plant a tub with a few commonly used herbs that you know you’re going to eat, and keep them near your kitchen door? Parsley, coriander, sage, basil and marjoram are multi purpose herbs, and all grow easily in pots.

Vegetables: If you enjoy growing fruit and vegetables, then try strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, courgettes, gooseberry and currant bushes. These are really easy to grow in tubs. Peas and green beans can be grown together up a structure of bamboo rods.

There are now lots of varieties of fruit and vegetables available to grow in containers, so have a good look around your garden centre – the variety may surprise you! The joy of eating your own produce is a satisfying pleasure rarely matched.

But most of all, enjoy your time in the garden. Don’t worry about what you ‘Should’ be doing, as there is no such thing. Do what gives you pleasure.

Deborah J Monshin (c) 2020

2 thoughts on “Therapeutic Benefits of Gardening”

  1. How true! Its the sensuality of it all – from the soil in our fingers, the warmth of the sun on the head, the wonder of nature’s colour palette, even the ache in our backs – it gets us well away from ‘monkey mind’ & into the feeling of our bodies, which we woefully neglect. Its wonderfully grounding. Thank you

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