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Gardening as therapy

Do you have a portion of a garden in your house? If you do, have you worked on it? Have you really enjoyed it? If you don’t have a garden, are you growing plants indoors? How much do you take care of them?

Every time I lived in a house with a garden, one of the first things I’ve done was to reserve a small piece of it to grow my own vegetables, herbs and flowers. Not to mention my indoor plants, which are absolutely mandatory! But why and how growing plants can contribute to your wellbeing?

It doesn’t require an excessive amount of your time, it isn’t very complex and you won’t be ruining your garden, nor your house decor (probably quite the opposite).

More importantly, there are so many benefits from growing your own vegetables and plants! Naming some, one of the most obvious benefits is saving money, as you won’t need to buy the same products that you’ve grown. Another clear benefit is the fact that you can opt to grow them without any pesticides or unnatural or harmful fertilizers, which will make them much healthier and eco-friendly. Well, the list of benefits goes one, but there’s the one that stands out from the rest: gardening and growing plants can be highly therapeutic. Why?

#1 Get some fresh air and move your body

It will make you go out to your garden and enjoy it. Sometimes we forget we have a garden and we stay closed indoors for no reason. You might as well not have a garden but you might neither enjoy your windows or balcony.

Planting can be the perfect excuse to go out there, to enjoy your garden, balcony or windows and get some fresh air and get your body moving instead of scrolling in your social media or looking to your computer or TV.

#2 Get rid of that stress and feel the happiness

Do you have any idea what a great stress reliever gardening and growing plants can be?

The fact that you will go out there to your garden, balcony or window will automatically increase the probabilities of having more sun – Vitamin D – on your skin. This, allied with the body movement implied in the activity, will help to release happy hormones such as dopamine improving your mood, staying happier and healthier.

#3 Observe the beauty around you

Have you realized how disconnected we are from nature? The reality is that we don’t need to travel to the woods in order to assist closely the beauty of nature. All you need is to you grow your own plants. You can grow anything from veggies to trees, herbs, flowers, or whatever you like.

The important element here is to get you to roll up your sleeves and play with the “mud”. Get your hands dirty, sow some seeds, water your plants, observe them, watch them grow, learn from them. You will see the many stages of their growth, and realise how alive everything around you is!

The beauty of life is in the smallest things that you encounter on a daily basis. You can learn how to observe and appreciate things around you. You’ll see more birds and butterflies, and realise how many colours Nature has to offer. All on a small scale, in your own garden.

#4 Taking care: humans are nurturers

Gardening can help us get a stronger sense of responsibility, as you’ll need to take care of your plants. You will surely increase the respect you fell for all beings and all living things.

All human beings are nurturers, and there’s nothing better than gardening and planting to satisfy this part of our essence. It teaches us how to appreciate life and nature as a whole. Makes us feel integrated with nature, to be in and not out; allow us to understand the cycle of life and how it is present in every living form. It is certainly a great activity for children of a young age, but also for all ages from young, to adult and old… everyone can enjoy the benefits of this.

#5 Anxiety and stress reliever: gardening as meditation!

Gardening and planting, like other crafts, can contribute to reducing anxiety and stress levels. It can help us to live in the present moment, to focus on something far from your daily concerns: it’s almost like an active meditation.

You will probably be thinking more about what you are doing than the past and future events of your life. It might help you to develop your senses, such as observing the beauty of the plants, smelling their perfumes, or feeling their texture.

Furthermore, it can help to develop your creativity, as you can arrange your garden (or indoor plants area) in your own way: design it to make it prettier or more functional. Decorate it, hang some flowers, make a herbs corner, etc.

Here you have room to try and learn, to risk without negative repercussions. You can even do your own materials and tools to improve your garden.

#6 Environmental friendly hobby

Gardening can be an incredible eco-friendly hobby! As mentioned, I highly recommend you to avoid artificial fertilizers and pesticides (you will hardly need them). Likewise, I warn you to be aware of the waste you can produce on the activity.

No, I’m not talking about organic waste. I’m rather referring to those times that you decided to buy a plant from the shop and it came along with plastic pots that you ended up throwing away:

  • Try to bring your own pots and ask to transfer the plant into them.
  • Optionally, buy only plants that are on reusable or bio-degradable containers (eg. ceramic or glass pots).
  • Reuse all the plastic pots you might already have;
  • Try to plant from seeds and jump that part of the process completely.

You can look for pots and tools on charity shops or in webpages such as Freecycle where people give away things that they don’t use anymore for free.

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The health benefits of gardening are unquestionable, and horticulture therapies are becoming increasingly more popular. There are more and more doctors recommending gardening as a therapy to fight mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, stress, grief and others.

You can do it in your garden, but remember that if you don’t have one you can easily plant indoors. Indoor plants can help to purify the air and to make your house look prettier. All sorts of plants can be grown both outdoors and indoors – see some simple tips in my sustainability project Make a change here – from veggies, to flowers, herbs, ornamental plants, fruits, small trees or even cactus.

Book recommendation

Although with a different approach from the one in this article, I highly recommend you to read “One straw revolution: an introduction to natural farming” (1978), from the farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka. The author focuses on natural and organic agriculture by trying to reproduce natural processes as closely as possible, and by cooperating with nature instead of trying to overcome it.

Fukuoka talks about the life cycle within Nature, and how Nature balances itself to keep a great habitat equilibrium without much human manipulation. The author shows how you can easily grow plants without the use of fertilizers, insecticides, or other products.  In this book, Fukuoka emphasizes the many health benefits of planting, especially natural farming, as well as the importance of protecting our nature. It is an inspiring and beautiful book that impacted me, many years ago, when I re-established my connection with Nature.

Planting is one of my favorite activities in life, which brings me ease, happiness and strength. I’m sure you’ll feel the same. 

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