By Amy Melissa Witt
This is the first post in a 6-part Healing Benefits of Nature series.
Gardening and mindfulness forge a connection to the world around us (nature, wildlife and people), which can bring us pleasure and peace. The exercise of tending to plants and the earth release endorphins (happy chemicals) in our brain. The United Kingdom’s National Health Service has defined five steps you can take to improve your mental health and well-being: connection with others, being more active, on-going learning; giving to others and paying attention to the present moment. Gardening fulfills all five of these criteria.
Like creating a garden, mindfulness takes time and persistence. One ideal way to incorporate mindfulness practice into everyday life is through gardening. The focus on the breath is replaced with the task at hand and the experience of the senses. Every time your attention wanders, there is a sight, smell, sound, touch or taste in the garden to bring your mind back to the present.
It is important to center yourself before you start gardening, because rushing into a task will not enhance a mindful state. How we look at our garden creates our garden, and our state of mind affects our gardening.
Attempting to force change on the natural order of things is possible (i.e. forcing bulbs, season extension), but is it desirable? Nature will do things in its own time. Nature is a universal language showing how suitable gardening is for mindfulness:
- First and foremost we must care for ourselves as we do our plants (providing space, light, food and water)
- We must look after the soil (our surroundings) so we can flourish
- We need time to rest (as do plants)
If we tended our bodies and minds like we do our gardens, we would be in great shape!