Healing Powers of Nature and Gardening
We hear it all the time, that gardening is really good for our health. Speaking from experience, I have to say, not only is it good for my health, but gardening has been the best preventive medicine available for me. Does my back and hands get sore from yard work? Sure it does! But the sense of deep fulfillment and accomplishment acts as drops of healing oil on me. Being in nature has healed me and it continues, as I engage myself in variety of gardening projects, whether it be on smaller or larger scale. In my studies of varies research and scientific data, I have discovered some solid analysis in regards to gardening. There are many ways we can take part of nature, and gardening for me is one of the best ways. Although Urban living makes it harder for some people to have access to individual gardening, a lot of the cities and neighborhoods around the world offer some sort of community gardening, which is just as beneficial, if not more.
Disconnect With Nature
In a recent study , researchers found the big disconnect which exist between people and nature. I find this to be really sad, since we have past generations as well as future once that are not experiencing the well-being that nature can provide. Playing outside in the parks or walking thru gardens are being replaced with electronics. It’s common to see little children, who should be playing outside, merely playing on a tablet or a phone. I remember as a child, spending hours outside playing (until dark). Electronics consisted of a television and a record or cassette player. My mom didn’t tell us to go out and play, most of the time, she had to remind us to come inside. My aunt would take us to a large city park, Pildammsparken, where I remember as a little girl running around smelling all the beautiful flowers with my twin sister. Check out this picture from 1989, with Robert, my aunt and me at Pildammsparken (shortly after our engagement).
We need Connection
French researchers found that school aged children chose to prioritize virtual instead of local animals, when given the option. Children are loosing the ability to connect with their immediate surroundings. This becomes an important reminder to us all, to prioritize the simple pleasures in life, such as gardening. Gardening increases life satisfaction, and I can attest to how a simple act as planting, caring and harvesting can bring contentment and feeling of gratitude. We all want to feel connected to something. And I have discovered, that nature is the purest and most forgiving of all connections.
Few Health Benefits
Although life expectancy has improved these past 50-100 years, the quality of life is not necessary keeping up. Chronic illnesses are on the rise globally, and prevention remains the best option, even though there has been medical advances. Diabetics, depression, heart disease, obesity and much more, are all costly worldwide medical expenses. That said, I realize that in some cases, even with our best intentions we may still continue struggling with health issues. For me knowledge and understanding is both inspiring and empowering. By knowing that I can use gardening as a tool to relief and manage some of my health challenges, gives me hope and desire to pursuit for a quality life.
Following are some of the health benefits with gardening as a hobby.
Gardening has shown to help people who struggle with variety of mental health. Depression, anxiety, as well as cognitive disorders. A study was done by Cambridge University on Horticulture Therapy and its effects. Over the course of nine weeks, they were able to see the positive results of patients taking care of plants. Another study showed that gardening lowered the risk for dementia as much as 36%. I have identified that gardening and being out in the nature has been a tremendous tool to manage my depression. We all need Vitamin D, and there is no better place to get that then by being outside. The sun is very healing (if sunscreen is used) and helps with relieving stress and anxiety. All I need is pair of pruning sheers and a sunhat, and nature does the rest for me. Only 30 minutes in my garden and I feel less anxious. It’s got to be that stress hormone, cortisol that finally manages to calm down!!
For those who practice community gardening, this is an amazing tool to combat loneliness. There is nothing like a garden conversation. Garden topics are relevant to us all, because we all like to eat and to enjoy flowers. We can share, teach, and inspire each other. Talk to the neighbor across the fence, or even better, share the bounties of your crop with someone (they will love you for that, guaranteed). Neighborhoods and cities across the world have seen great success in encouraging elderly in their loneliness thru the companionship of community gardening.
Exercise and Heart Health
We all know that exercise is good for us. But did you know you can burn anything from 120-600 calories while working in your garden. That is awesome!!! So I can definitely replace my gym-pass money with buying more flowers (not that I have ever been to a gym 😉 ). Because of exercise our hearts build better stamina thru activity, which in turn reduces heart problems like stroke and heart attacks. Weeding, planting, cleaning and raking, all that makes me use my muscles, and that builds stronger stomach muscles, consequently helps me with strengthening my core (my physical therapist appreciates that too!). Thru physical activity, gardening can also lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Better Immune system
Being exposed regularly to nature and soil can help improve and strengthen our immune system. The reason for this is, all the beneficial bacteria that we come in contact with are found in soil and dirt, as we garden. We live in a society where we fear bacteria and virus to the point where it has become unhealthy. Our children need to be exposed to dirt and soil to build stronger immune systems. There are billions of organism in small area of dirt. Unfortunately lack of exposure to these micro organism creates a weaker immune system in our children.
I have sat on a couch with a traditional therapist (and thank heavens for that) and thru that experience I discovered gardening therapy. Initially I thought gardening was just for the fun of it. But with time I have learned that based on hundreds of studies, there is now something called Horticulture Therapy . I think all gardens are healing, but since 1989 there has been hundreds of specific gardens designated as Therapeutic and Healing gardens. These two specific gardens may be a little different from each other, but their purpose is to help patients recover thru nature and horticulture. The primary goal of these gardens are to relief the person’s health symptoms and trauma, de-stress and improve overall well-being. These gardens are designed and landscaped often slightly different, such as avoiding sculptures and art. They are usually also located away from the loud sounds of the city.
To summarize the healing powers of nature and gardening, I have to use two words hope and anticipation. Once I learned to set aside my thoughts of a perfect garden, I was finally able to reap the multiple rewards of gardening and being in the nature. There is nothing that speaks louder than gardening when we consider the word mindfulness. I have spend hours upon hours just soaking in the beauty of a single rose or flower. Every time I spend an hour in my garden, I feel rejuvenated and happier. Learning to let go of the dead plants (trust me, I have killed many poor plants), has taught me to let go in other aspects of my life too,that I can’t control. Gardening has helped me to appreciate NOW, this moment, with this plant. We all live in communities where we might feel inadequate and judged. But the beauty of nature is, that it neither judges or demands, which leads to feelings of greater self-worth. As our self-worth improves so does our overall well-being. Nature shows us that things don’t have to be perfect in order for them to be beautiful. It’s not about what we plant or how good of a job we do, it’s finding connection in nature and in the soil. There in lies the seeds of gratitude.