Since buying our own little piece of paradise, I’ve become slightly obsessed with gardens. Taking an unused – and in our case seemingly unusable – piece of land and turning it into a productive, organic kitchen garden. Planting vibrant splashes of colour that attract butterflies, dragonflies and native bees. Ourgardens are the most relaxing places on our property to de-stress. Not only sitting and contemplating in an established garden but also the whole process of planning, preparing and planting the garden is so cathartic.
For years, men and women have seen an alarming increase in the amount of stress they incur over a typical work week. With both parents working, and many struggling to afford and maintain a typical household, anxiety soars.
And it’s not uncommon for even children to experience more stress than in the past. They are often unable to cope with the normal routines of childhood. They also have strong tie to technology and never-ending stimulation. (But don’t get me started on a whole new rant – we will save that for another post!)
So if your stressed, don’t reach t for a prescription drug or over-the-counter medication to calm your nerves. It’s true that there are numerous medications on the market today that are designed to treat stress. You can get a prescription from your doctor today and, depending on the medication he prescribes, you can feel relief from the stress almost instantly.
But what else is it doing to you? I agree that there is a time and place for medications. I also believe that:
a) we live in a world where we have become overdependent on drugs for any little issues that arises.
b) even where medication may be useful in a circumstance, we should be looking at natural ways to support the healing process this will help us get off the drugs as soon as possible and not develop long-term dependance.
So where could you use gardening to help combat the effects of stress?
Here a just three of my favourite types of gardens…which certainly bring me a sense of calm and tranquility.
Stress relief from the garden can come from flowers, a beautiful and relaxing butterfly garden or a food garden. You can enjoy nature’s bounty on your table in exciting and delicious recipes.
Just the act of cultivating a garden can be a restful and peaceful experience. Getting outdoors in the warm sunshine and communing with nature by helping plants grow and provide beauty or harvest can be relaxing and a healthy way to exercise.
Sensory gardens provide a space that you can experience with all your senses. It helps you reconnect with nature to provide the means to heal mind, body and spirit.
“All the world’s problems can be solved in a garden” Geoff Lawton, permaculturalist.
Why not try a sensory garden, with different points of interest. You could have water features, fragrant herbs, colourful and aromatic flowers, rocks, wind chimes. They all provide a world of sound, smell and texture to explore. Let your creativeness and imagination run wild when creating a beautiful space in which you can relax. You can even bring some of the beauty into your home.
Grow flowers from seeds in flats and then plant them in containers or flower beds surrounding your home or on your patio. The rewards you get from a flower garden range from the scene of blooming flowers, the scent and the harvest for your own personal use.
Certain flowers, such as lavender (an herb) are commonly used in aromatherapy for stress relief. You can purchase the scent of lavender in soaps and lotions – or grow your own and tie up bunches to dry in your home.
I absolutely love standing at the top of my garden and watching all the butterflies dancing among the flowers and vegetables. It excites me no end.. not only are the beautiful but they are busy spreading the pollen and helping my garden grow.
A butterfly garden not only brings beauty, but the added benefit of observing gorgeous butterflies flying from flower to flower. A properly executed butterfly garden will attract butterflies and hummingbirds, filling your garden with life and aroma.
Among the plants you can grow in your butterfly garden include lavender, azaleas and hibiscus. Also try Tropical sage, butterfly bushes, purple cone-flower and bee balm to attract hummingbirds and butterflies and to fill your garden with beauty.
And, for the ultimate in exercise and health, try a food garden. A food garden can bring beauty to containers or outdoor garden spaces and add healthy vegetables to your table.
Easy and fast-growing plants for your food garden include tomatoes, bell pepper, radishes, carrots and lettuce. Fresh produce from your garden tastes much better than what you can purchase from the supermarket.
If you have a large enough garden space, try growing extra produce for canning and/or freezing. This ensures you can be enjoying your gardening efforts far into the cold winter months.
Studies show that regular involvement in gardening promotes physical health in many ways.
- Increase overall levels of physical activity and fitness, burn more calories and hence contribute to healthy weight management and reducing the risk of obesity.
- Increase healthy fruit and vegetable consumption. For adults that grow food, and among school children participating in food-growing activities at school. It also improves young people’s attitudes to healthy eating.
- Reduce physical pain, and help with rehabilitation or recovery from surgery or other medical interventions.
- Help people cope with physically challenging circumstances. Examples are intensive cancer treatment or learning how to live with chronic conditions such as asthma or severe allergies.
– See more at: The American Hrticulturalist Therapy Association
Choosing any one or all of the above garden types ensures you get needed sunshine to increase serotonin and melatonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is the “feel good” chemical and melatonin helps you get a good night’s sleep.
Among the many benefits of gardening, the boost in your ability to get a good night’s sleep is one of the best. Sleep has a paramount impact on your quality of life – if you don’t get enough sleep you may not be as alert and focused the next day.
Other perks of gardening include keeping your body flexible, the bounty you enjoy (whether flowers or food) and creating a beautiful spot to boost your sense of well-being.
There’s also something to be said for getting in touch with the earth. We generally live “dirt-free” lives – almost sterile in nature. But playing in the earth can be a good thing. It relaxes you and gets you ready for a restorative night’s sleep.
While not as powerful as the medications sometimes prescribed for depression and insomnia, gardening does put back some help to your immune system that’s quite lacking in our environment of today.
The fresh air you enjoy with gardening keeps you healthy and promotes cell growth and renewal in your body. After gardening, you may also find that you can focus better and enjoy a sense of physical and mental well-being.
Carve out a space in your gardens for your relaxation by adding water features and other sounds of nature – plus and comfy spot to relax with a good book or maybe a glass of wine.
I frequently work from home and every couple of hours I get up stretch and walk around our gardens. It brings a sense of calm, not to mention pride that we created this beautiful space ourselves. We will always be able to enjoy it when we just need a bit of time out. Not only is gardening easy and low cost, but it can provide you with healthy foods, a healthier body and a mind that’s at peace more often than not.