In previous posts, I’ve written about the importance of self-care in order to manage stress. Today, I thought I’d share about my favorite stress-relieving activity: gardening.
Here I’ll share 3 ways I’ve seen gardening be useful to both body and soul.
1. Gardening Implants Virtue
When you’re new to gardening, you tend to do a lot of research: What varieties work best in your particular climate, in which type of soil the plants grow best in, how much water they need, etc.
After investing time in research, you choose the type of plant(s), till soil, dig, sweat, get dirty, plant seeds, water and most importantly…
It’s impossible to have any type of garden without some level of work. There’s a fundamental connection between time, energy, and fruit.
In life we usually have to wait for positive results, even when we work hard. Think about situations in your own life where you’ve seen work produce results. Whether it’s a promotion at your job or discipline of your children, you had to work hard upfront before you began to see the results you hoped for.
Putting an effort into your marriage or even managing anxiety and depression are other examples. It all takes hard work, but it also takes time for you to see results.
As nice as it would be, growing fruits and veggies is not an automatic success. Diligence and patience are two character qualities closely intertwined. When gardening, you have to patiently wait to see if your hard work pays off. If it doesn’t, you might have to start over from scratch, which in turn develops more virtue.
Patience is learned alongside or through the work.
Waiting for your plants to take root and flower can help you await the changes you hope to see in your own life, whatever they might be.
2. Connecting to the Earth Relieves Stress
Now before you think I’m getting “hippie” on you… hear me out…
There’s research from Harvard which suggests many benefits to being outdoors. They found that exposure to the environment improves concentration, self-esteem, and mood. Tending a garden puts you out in nature without having to travel far or hike the Appalachian Trail.
Additional studies found that the impact of stressful life events was less in children who are frequently exposed to nature. The in other words, nature acted as a protective buffer for the overall psychological well-being of the children who spent more time in nature.
How cool is that?!
Just simply being outside in your yard, and putting a plant in the ground can in and of itself reduce stress.
3. You’re Released from the Illusion of Control
Watching and waiting…
Waiting and watching…
Though there is a timetable of when you can expect your fruits and veggies to be ripe and ready to eat, things don’t always go according to plan. First you wait… sometimes days… (usually months). Nothing happens overnight.
Even after a fruit ripens, it may not make it all the way to your table for various reasons:
The plant could get some type of disease. Bugs or another pest could get to the fruit before you do, etc.
This is a great reminder that you are not as in control of your life as you think you are. Living in the comfort of the U.S. can sometimes give a false sense of security and control.
What do I mean?
Many of us are protected from the elements by our homes. We have heating and air conditioning.
We stop by the grocery store on our way home from work for that evening’s meal, or we might even opt for food delivery to our home.
Many items in our culture are convenient so when we do find ourselves in an unpredictable situation, we can become overwhelmed. When things feel hectic, when you’re stuck in traffic, when your kids aren’t listening, when you and your spouse are arguing, when life seems to be throwing punches it adds on an extra layer of stress.
So many aspects of our lives are controllable: what clothes we purchase, where we choose to live, with whom we choose to associate, how we plan our time with family and friends. We can even control the temperature in our own house! (Depending on what part of the country you live in).
The process of gardening helps remind you of the cycle and patterns of life. Sometimes things work out well and you eat the fruits of your labor. Sometimes you have a drought and no amount of planning or preparation will save your plants from dying.
Out in nature, you no longer have the facade of being in control. You are subject to the elements, to mother nature, and the seasons. You are reminded you are human.
The beautiful part is that you can adjust when life forces change.
When you adjust, you learn that it’s okay to not be in control all of the time.
It can be freeing.
Simply accepting the reality of not being in control, will in and of itself relieve stress. When life comes at you, you will expect it and be ready.
Instead of getting knocked down, you simply step aside and adjust. Change the plan. And maybe even punch back.
You will realize that mishaps are not a reflection on you or how well you’re running your life. But rather, it’s part of the human experience. (In other words… You’re not a failure!)
And guess what??
I bet you’re a whole lot better at life than you think you are.
(Trust me. I say that to people in my office on an almost daily basis.)
So what are you waiting for?
Get outside, develop that green thumb and watch your stress melt away!
Have your own experience with gardening? Let us know in the comments! Share how gardening has reduced stress and nourished your own soul.