I didn’t know dirt could bring me home to myself. And yet, on my hands and knees, tilling the soil of a vegetable garden in Vermont, I found my nirvana in the earthy aromas of life growing around me. Weeding was my task, and it actually felt as if the garden was loving me back as much as I was loving the sense of freedom that came with unearthing all the unwanted parts.
Turns out, cultivating a garden is a dirt-based communion with forces bigger than ourselves that actually improves our health, from the inside, out. The moderate physical activity has a calming effect, and is especially helpful in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease for postmenopausal women as our estrogen hormones get depleted.
A garden can be a place of work and worship. To me, it’s like performance art where nature reminds me how we’re all connected and are our most brilliant when we show up as our best selves in service to one another. We all need the sun, the stars, the rain, and an attentive heart to truly thrive. It’s so elemental and true. After all, we’re even more like plants than we realize. Similar to photosynthesis our skin uses sunlight to make nutrients like vitamin D, that help strengthen our bones and prevent osteoporosis.
Of course, this all brought up the desire for me to dig deeper… (yes, pun intended)
Gardening requires us to be fully present in the moment, concentrating on the task at hand. As we nurture plants, weed, or just observe the natural world around us, we get attuned to the sights, sounds, and sensations of our surroundings. This mindful immersion can serve as a form of meditation, reducing stress and anxiety while enhancing our mental clarity. It’s almost like we get fertilized in the process.
The act of tending to plants and watching them grow provides a sense of purpose and accomplishment, boosting our self-esteem. We find solace in the predictability of our garden’s rhythms with the seasons. As a mother whose kids live far away, gardening is my outlet for a nurturing relationship, and it’s so gratifying to see how my attention morphs into colorful blossoms that make me feel more alive.
Gardening gives us a deep sense of connection with nature that helps alleviate depression and anxiety. We get to witness the cycles of life and the interdependence of all living things. Being in it has a profound effect on our wellbeing. For me, this consciousness also makes me aware of my responsibilities as a steward of our planet, my home. I never could have imagined I’d ask myself the questions I do now like, “What sustainable lifestyle choices can I make that will give the next generation of children a chance to also appreciate this?”
How Our Bodies Benefit:
Gardening offers up excellent low-impact exercise that enhances strength, flexibility, and balance. Best of all, the physical activity releases endorphins, those super useful neurotransmitters that boost our mood and reduce the “flight or fight” cortisol that compromises our immune system.
Keeping it moving… Research shows that women who get at least four hours of daily life movement had a 43% lower incidence of cardiovascular disease compared to women who got less than two hours.
Homegrown fruits and vegetables offer access to fresh, nutritious produce for a well-balanced diet. Plus, they taste better when you’ve grown them. A healthy diet enhances our vitality and reduces the risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. Any way you get there, your body says “thank you.”
Your garden can sprout anywhere you make it. All that’s required is your attention. Love is what feeds it, and what we are rewarded in return.
“To dwell is to garden.” Martin Heidegger
“Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.” Gertrude Jekyll
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