Digging into the dirt contributes to our mental and physical health
It is no secret that the global pandemic has weighed on our mental well-being.
Depression, loneliness, and anxiety among young and old has risen significantly.
One surprising way to combat the mental heaviness weighing us all down is getting your hands dirty in a garden.
Like many others, I spent the long winter working from home. As a mental break, I would wander around my home admiring all of my house plants, trying to spot new leaves and growth, while analyzing the dirt to see if they needed more water.
It may have only been a minute break, but it was, a break from sitting at a computer screen that was very much needed.
With spring and warmer days, I decided to take this practice outdoors. Every day for a week, after pouring a cup of coffee and before opening my laptop to check emails, or even looking at my phone, I stepped outside and looked at my plants. I began a very tiny herb garden in a planter; I watered my hanging basket and looked around to see what was growing on trees or popping up from the ground. I noticed that by the time my workday started, my mind and body felt settled.
Periodically throughout the day now, I stroll outside and look closely at the growth happening around me, and I began to recognize positive changes in my own body. I felt refreshed, energetic, and hopeful for the coming season.
My experience is no surprise to psychologists. Research has shown that gardening is great for our mental and physical wellbeing and can alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression. In a survey conducted by four San Francisco Bay Area hospitals, 79% of patients who participated said they felt more relaxed and calm, while 19% felt more positive and 25% felt refreshed and stronger after spending time in a garden.
Gardening requires you to be physically active and present in your body and space. The activity needs your attentiveness and patience while you work and encourages connection with the earth.
It engages all of our senses while soaking up some vitamin D. By combining your mental and physical attention, gardening can lower your cortisol, the stress hormone, alleviate anxiety, and recharge your soul.
Gardening can also benefit our spiritual walk.
Many people feel most connected to God and their faith when walking or spending time in nature. We feel connected to something greater than ourselves; we see evidence of life, growth, and beauty all working together and leaving us in complete awe.
Scripture often uses nature and growth as ways to communicate stories and teaching.
“It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” Luke 13:19
“He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate— bringing forth food from the earth” – Psalm 104:14
We are coming out of a long and lonely winter, worn down by lockdowns, restrictions, quarantines, and fears of a deadly virus – but there is hope.
If you haven’t ventured into the world of gardening yet, this might be the best year to try it out, even a few small plants on a balcony or window sill can do wonders for your health.
Take time to take care of yourself this season. Slow down, go outside, look at the growth happening around you this spring and see how it affects your life and wellbeing.