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Rediscovering Mental Wellness through Gardening

I am lucky. I grew up in a family that had amazing connections to the land. We regularly grew vegetables for meals and the extended growing season meant we had something fresh almost year round. I left for school, not realizing how the grounding activities that surrounded my childhood had kept me feeling stable and […]

I am lucky. I grew up in a family that had amazing connections to the land. We regularly grew vegetables for meals and the extended growing season meant we had something fresh almost year round.

I left for school, not realizing how the grounding activities that surrounded my childhood had kept me feeling stable and secure. Once I arrived in the dorms, I was quickly swept away with how chaotic everything felt.

The one thing I missed most?

The dirt.

It took me longer than I like to admit to realize that I was missing that connection with the seasons, and my mental health suffered for it. I struggled with depression and anxiety for nearly a decade before recognizing that part of my problem was the lack of access to plants.

Although nutrition, exercise, and therapy are all very important, many people talk to me about how they need something more.

For me, rediscovering the natural rhythms made the biggest difference. Planning certain vegetables based on the time of year, eating locally grown foods who had been through the same droughts or deluges I had, and generally getting dirty for that grounding connection gave me something beyond what current man-made research can do.

I was missing that connection with the seasons, and my mental health suffered for it.

Gardening itself is very helpful in a mindfulness practice: the smell of the dirt, the taste of the vegetables or herbs, and the feel of different leaves can all add depth to your mindfulness space. Evidence suggests friendly microbes in the soil may even work to increase serotonin levels in the brain.

Take time to bring a little nature into your space. If you have a backyard, use it. If you’re in a smaller space, there are all kinds of nifty ways to get into container gardening.

Feast your eyes on my mother’s unbelievable rosemary plant.

Don’t let an initial failure discourage you: lots of gardening is trial and error. My mother has an enormous rosemary plant, but I cannot even remember how many she couldn’t get to thrive before this one.
My granddaddy is 93 and gardens every year, but even now he is learning things. Just last year I was able to teach him that he was planting his radishes too deep and that’s why they never grew.

No matter who you are or where you are, there are ways to make gardening work. A meta analysis showed those people who garden have increases in quality of life and sense of community… and its introduction concludes by saying “a regular dose of gardening can improve public health”.

Don’t let an initial failure discourage you: lots of gardening is trial and error.

This past spring: 92 and still starting tomatoes from seed.

Take time for the outdoors and enjoying hikes through nature. But also take on the challenge of creating your own foods. Begin to feel the centering and grounding that can come from the “zen” of concentrating on those plants. You will thank yourself. 🙂

Some of my plants during an Easter egg hunt this past spring.

Larabeth hosts a weekly podcast through the Natural Wellness Transformations school. These 20 minute blurbs focus on natural health and utilizing several modalities for long term wellness.
Click here for ways to listen

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