Spending time in nature is an age-old antidote to the discontents and anxieties of modern civilization. Going for a walk in the wilderness, practising forest bathing or strolling through a garden can have significant benefits for your physical and mental well-being including lowered heart rate and blood pressure, reduced stress hormone production, and overall feelings of health and happiness.
In the rushed, stress-driven, segregated state we find ourselves in, ‘nature’ can sometimes feel a bit out of reach. ‘Nature’ does not imply having to book a weekend away in the woods to feel refreshed and replenished. Nature can be seen all around us, including the leafy plant on your desktop, a flourishing balcony garden on the fourth floor, a floriferous sidewalk garden in the city, a giant oak tree spotted on your way to lunch, or the esteemed vegetable patch you created from scratch. We can find the trails of nature in the midst of our everyday endeavours if we dare to look for them. One who has surely mastered this is the gardener.
In recent times, many have been forced to reconsider the value and role of a garden. A garden is a place that can offer refuge, consolation and refreshment – it is a sanctuary, a solace for the soul and strength to the body. Cultivating a garden also means cultivating vigour and vitality within. Having something to nurture and tend to brings a sense of gratuitous purpose to our lives. Candide, (also a free gardening app) that supports Garden Day, shows you how.
Ways to cultivate wellness in the garden
Gardening has always been a collaborative endeavour. Whether it’s joining forces with friends to dig over a patch for your vegetable garden, or borrowing a few tools from neighbours, or whether it’s allying with birds who feed on those pesky buggers chewing on your spinach, gardening always thrives amidst community. And so does the human soul. In a time of isolation and segregation, the world is hungry for connection. A wonderful way to see this connection restored is uniting (outdoors of course!) under the same purpose of cultivating a garden.
2. Take it indoors
If accessing an outdoor space is hard or perhaps even impossible, you can always take your green thumbs indoors. There are numerous plants, ideas and options when it comes to cultivating an indoor garden. It all depends on your taste and interest. Perhaps you’d enjoy designing and planting miniature self-contained ecosystems (terrariums), or you’d like to explore cultivation as a form of art by pruning and shaping a bonsai. If you’re more into home-grown, why not consider hydroponics? No soil needed! If gardening indoors seems a little daunting at first, start with the easy guys like Monsteras, Philodendrons, and Dragon trees. It’s only a matter of time before you start saying things like “Joh bru, check this new leaf on myCalathea orbifolia!”
3. Schedule a time
It’s simple, you don’t do what you don’t schedule. Be intentional with your health and wellness by scheduling a time in your calendar where you can take some time to garden, or just sit and soak in the bounty of nature. October and November are the best months to schedule a few garden days. Not only is the spring weather so inviting, but there are numerous Open Gardens to explore.
4. Sweat it out
Often times we may feel stuck, whether it’s at home or in life in general, and sometimes the only way to find relief is to just get moving. Gardeners will often tell you the best therapy involves yanking out weeds, pruning a plum tree, digging a hole for a new rose bush, harvesting avocados, or ditching the sprinklers that ever so often catch you off guard. Besides improving your immune system, reducing stress, and increasing those vitamin D levels, gardening is right up there with a HIIT session. The benefits of gardening for your body truly are endless. According to nutritionists at Loughborough University, mowing, digging and planting for two to three hours can help burn off up to one pound(500g) a week. Just half an hour weeding can burn up to 150 calories, and heavier tasks like hedge trimming can burn over 400 calories per hour!
5. Go forage
The garden is the original apothecary. Our health, mind and body, is interwoven with the soil we cultivate and the plants grown therein. Not only is the process of cultivating edible and medicinal plants and flowers good for us, but also the wholesome produce we get to harvest and enjoy. Growing edibles like leafy greens, citrus fruits, and Solanums, and medicinal plants like Chamomile, Echinacea, feverfew and garlic, gives you a wonderful variety of minerals and nutrients often missing in our everyday diet.
6. Be mindful
Gardening does not only involve being active and working to see the fruit of your labour. Gardening is also very much immersing oneself in the simplicity, timing, and stillness of nature and its ever-sustaining processes. Here we take some time to be still and become aware of every detail and life form that play a tiny part in the whole. After spending some time doing this, you’ll find your shoulders are more relaxed, you’re breathing more easily, you’ve lost track of time, and it feels good.