Ever gotten that feeling of satisfaction or excited by watching your garden grow? Or maybe the thought of growing something from a seed to a bloom gets you thinking “yes” I would really enjoy doing that!
If you answered yes to either of those thoughts then you have another way of easing into the practice of mindfulness. YAY! This is going to be awesome, maybe a little dirty but that will be the best part, at least one of them that is.
If you are new to gardening then you would probably be happier starting out small and having little successes versus trying to take on too much and risk losing the loving feeling you will soon have. Nothing wrong with taking risks but why set yourself up to not only be pulling weeds but pulling out your hair and throwing in the rake!
Why gardening for mindfulness? Well, that is a great question—glad you thought of it and I will do my best to answer. Gardeners tend to give off a bit of zen, maybe it is because getting down in the dirt is one of those ways to get back to our roots, maybe primal in nature.
The research in mindfulness and hortitherapy, a fancy word for gardening as therapy, has a few points that bear pointing out. Here are a few I think are ones you could benefit from:
• First is the gardening is just that mental break needed when solving a problem you have—you know it’s just the distraction you need and interestingly enough the solution can come to you like magic while getting a bit of exercise in at the same time.
• Hormones like serotonin and dopamine are released which leaves us feeling satisfied and happier and the added benefit of cortisol levels dropping.
• Helps express grief
• Increases self esteem
• Smelling flowers and yanking weeds can lower blood pressure and give positive feelings.
• Frequently so much to do that you can get lost so if feeling depressed or experiencing pain, gardening can take your mind off of what is bothering you.
• With as little as 12 hours per month Kaplan and Kaplan 1989(A study on relaxation and rejuvenation along with inner peace) reported peacefulness and tranquility of over 60% of participants.
Sources other than Kaplan and Kaplan (1989)
Benefits of Gardening –Kidd, J.L. Pachan, N.A. & Alpass, F.M. (2001)
Terry Hartwig at the University of California, Irvine
What You Need to Get Started:
Some good soil. Don’t get too heavy of a mixture- I don’t mean weight here, I mean density. It should be fairly light so you can work in it. Find a bag at a local garden store or even the big box stores like Lowe’s or home Depot.
Seeds or starter plants
Access to water either hose or watering can
Place or pots in an area in which to grow your garden
An idea of beginners tools
Gardening is the perfect activity to engage all the senses: Beautiful sights/colors, soothing sounds, interesting smells and textures plus, depending on what is growing, could be some delicious tastes. A veritable bath of senses which if taken in and fully appreciated in the moment is nothing short of mindfulness, which is the point.
Top Garden Books available for some assistance in getting started.
Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew is easily one of the coolest gardening books to get started on the whole backyard endeavor. He keeps it simple yet organized. This is the new version of his book and he has a variety of books in addition to my personal favorite. He also has Square Foot Gardening: How to Grow Organic Vegetables the Easy Way. If you want some flowers you can always put some marigolds or other flowers around the garden for beauty and bug protection. If you have kids then I would suggest Square Foot Gardening with Kids: Learn together-Gardening Basics as the way to go. I like that it combines the science and math which is not only great for kids but us adults too, especially if one of those kids asks us WHY?
If you are really thinking about getting into using your backyard space then you might like The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre. This could be a choice for you depending on what your neighborhood has for local rules and regulations. Even if you just read it and don’t decide to raise chickens you will still feel more connected to your land and its possibilities.
Free on Kindle
Vertical Gardening: The Beginners Guide to Organic & Sustainable Produce Production without a Backyard by Olivia Abby.
This book has good reviews and hey if you like reading on you kindle, it’s FREE-can’t beat that. Hope you enjoy!
Stay in the “Garden” Zone
If at all possible-keep your focus on the garden and all the awesome animals you find in the garden—birds, bees, butterflies, sneaky snakes, lizards, and bunnies to name a few. Staying in the zone instead of bringing out your phone—unless you are expecting a call is just more peaceful and mindful.
Whether it be starting small with a few potted plants by the front door to greet you as you arrive home from work or a small garden in the yard with a place to go sit for a spell, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have started you own little garden of Zen and please, enjoy watching your garden grow.