March 26, 2011

My garden - My Sanctuary

I just love my garden.

Everyone has a different reason for loving their garden. Some say it's
because they love being able to grow their own food, while others just love the beauty that all
the green and the flowers bring. Still others just love having a little patch of green in the midst
of a metal, stone and glass city.

As a child, I always noticed that my mother spent hours and hours in her garden and I would be
there too, puttering around with my friends or just helping her. As I grew and started spending
time in my own garden, I realized that it wasn't only the aesthetically pleasing nature of
gardens that drew my mother to them - it was also the energizing and healing properties they
bring. Here are some ways that gardens improve our health physically and mentally.

Mental and Emotional Health

Have you ever noticed how an afternoon of pulling weeds or planting new flowers or
vegetables makes you just as refreshed as you would be after yoga or meditating? This is
because gardening has been proven to help improve our mental health!
  • Gardening helps to boost self-esteem and optimism. Serious gardeners tend to be
    people who look to the future with hope (maybe stemming from the hope that their
    azaleas will bloom soon or that they will be harvesting apples in the fall). Also, growing
    plants gives gardeners a sense of accomplishment, boosting self-esteem. Because of
    this gardening has proven to be such a great therapeutic tool that many therapists
    recommend gardening as a way to help patients deal with depression and anxiety.
  • Gardening leads to introspection and self-improvement. As we often work alone in our
    gardens, it leaves us a lot of time to spend with ourselves. With no other distractions,
    gardening allows us to get to know ourselves. In the end, a person who takes advantage
    of the meditative opportunities gardening has to offer has a better view of the world
    and may even undertake self-improvement.
  • Gardening teaches patience, shows us the beauty in imperfection, and allows us to let
    go of the wheel.
    These are all things that those of us caught up in a fast-paced world are
    seriously lacking. Because we have to wait for a long time before we see the results of
    our gardening efforts, we are taught patience. We can never really control how exactly
    our gardens grow, so we have to learn to relinquish the wheel. And even when we find
    strange-shaped apples on the tree or flowers we didn't plant, we're still so thrilled at
    having grown these things that imperfections are perfect!

Physical Health

Aside from mosquito bites, two things that I always feel after a couple of hours of gardening is
the sweat and my muscle aches. Gardening is one of many wonderful, free and enjoyable ways
you can get your daily dose of exercise! And much like a gym, gardening offers different levels
of exercise - from the exhaustively back breaking to the gentle stretching.
  • Gardening builds muscles. With all the heavy lifting you have to do, this one's almost a
    no-brainer. We lift so many pots of soil, wheelbarrows with multiple plants, gallons and
    gallons of water, hoses, buckets, and tools that we unwittingly do muscle training!
  • Gardening burns fat. Oh yes, it definitely does. Running or walking around your plot of
    land is your daily dose of cardio packaged in green leafy goodness!
  • Gardening makes you flexible. Notice how you're stretching to reach those high up
    branches and bending over constantly to pick up a tool you need? These simple but
    daily practices make you more flexible, stretching you out and working the ligaments in
    your limbs and core.
  • Gardening does your heart and bones good. Because of all the weight training, cardio
    and reaching involved in gardening, your heart muscles are strengthened. Coupled
    with the vegetables and fruits you get, your heart becomes a happy and healthy one.
    All the activity also increases bone density, the main reason why doctors recommend
    gardening for the elderly.
  • Gardening builds endurance. We do all of the above for hours on end! It's no wonder
    how after some time, you're able to lift more for longer and walk or run faster during
    daily tasks!

Gardening is also good for the Earth, adding patches of dedicated yet ever-evolving green
to the landscape. So instead of an expensive gym membership or doing other stress-release
activities, simply step outside and garden to work your way to beautiful trees and plants and a
clean bill of health!

This is a guest post by Isabella York - working mother who enjoys the outdoors by spending time in her garden. Along with raising her son, she works for Balsam Hill, a purveyor of Artificial Christmas Trees and Christmas Trees.

1 comment:

Carole said...

Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times YES ! I would add to this list the closing sentence of Voltaire's Zadigue "Il faut cultiver notre jardin" - of course he meant litterally and figuratively.
(one must cultivate one's garden)