Stress levels through the roof after months of social distancing and time spent in isolation? Mindful gardening is here to soothe your anxiety thoughts.
The coronavirus lockdown might have given us permission to wear PJs all day and catch up on all our favourite Netflix shows, but it’s also given us iso face, twitching eyes and crazy dreams. Not everything about being stuck at home (or working from home) is fun, and given we’re in the midst of a pandemic, it’s pretty clear we’re all feeling a little more stressed than usual.
If you’ve tried meditating to ease your anxious thoughts but gave up five minutes in because you’re literally sick of sitting, you should try mindful gardening instead.
Recent studies have shown that gardening and being in nature can help bolster your mental and physical health, and since you have more time on your hands for things like backyard veggie gardens, garden rooms and indoor plant shopping, it’s never been a better time to try.
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Why gardening can improve your mental health
According to Dr Dom Hes, sustainability expert and lead researcher at Plant Life Balance, simply seeing plants can help settle your emotions, so gardening and tending to plants can have an even bigger impact.
“Gardening calms the emotional side of the brain,” Dr Hes explains. “Research shows that gardening, time in nature and being around plants reduces stress, just as active mindfulness can. Both activities work on the amygdala, which is the emotional switchboard of the brain. When you are gardening you are observing what is happening now – you are in the present – and this is a key technique of mindfulness.”
How gardening can calm your isolation stress
We might be staying safe inside, but not being able to spend time outside (unless for essential reasons) can negatively affect our mental and physical health. Because of this, Dr Hes says that your home, balcony, courtyard or backyard have become places of refuge – and you can up their relaxation factor with plants.
“There is a lot of stress around at the moment and being amongst nature enables you to be best able to deal with that stress. On top of the mindfulness benefits, being out in the daylight boosts your vitamin D levels and sets up your circadian rhythm, helping with sleep, which in turn helps to manage stress levels further.
“Even activities such as repotting, planting seeds or simply tending to your indoor plants can be a mindful exercise as it draws your attention into the moment and encourages optimism through planning something that will grow into the future.”
3 ways to stay mindful when you garden
Take it slow
This isn’t a race. Before you begin, take a deep breath to centre yourself. Express gratitude for the day and the nature around you.
Garden with your senses
See, smell, listen, and feel the experience of being with nature. Pay attention to colours and the way the plants and soil feels.
Enjoy the process
Learn to enjoy this process more than the end result and don’t expect perfection – it takes time and practice but that’s part of the journey.