Many of us garden because we want to grow our own fruits and vegetables. An attractive landscape may be the goal of others. Gardening, no matter what kind, can also be therapeutic. For many people gardening relaxes the mind, body and spirit. Actually, it is not "gardening" that's relaxing, but the way that we approach it. If gardening is seen as a chore, it's stressful. If we view it as enjoyable, it can help relieve stress.
Focusing on the task at hand is the key to relieving stress. Digging, chopping, and hitting motions can relieve stress and tension. Strenuous activities also provide an outlet for aggression. Strenuous activities are not the only ways to relieve stress. A simple walk around the garden may be sufficient. As you walk, take in all the colors, textures, and fragrances in the garden. By the end of your walk you should feel better.
Some pointers for relaxing in the garden:
- Make a short "to do" list and stick to it. Don't try to do everything in one afternoon, evening, or weekend.
- Follow the exercise cycle of stretching, warm-up, exercise, and cool down while gardening.
- Attack garden chores, such as digging beds, turning compost, and cultivating with the same vigor as weight-lifting, running, or swimming.
- After a period of hard work, stop and rest. Be conscious of your breathing.
- Breathe deeply, stretch and relax during your rest periods.
- Stop and take a moment to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste all that is around you.
- Listen to music while gardening.
- Teach children how to garden. Remember, you are there to teach them how enjoyable gardening is.
- Use markers in the garden. Every time you see one, stop, consciously relax and breathe deeply.
Stress is serious problem in the society we live in today. Allow the natural rhythms of the garden to both slow you down and calm you. Pay attention to the garden and you'll find yourself involved and fulfilled. Remember that how one gardens is more important than if one gardens. If you can find the time, volunteer. There are numerous places that can use volunteers in their horticultural therapy programs. Nursing homes, child and adult day care facilities and hospitals are good places to start looking to help.
This article originally appeared in the July 28, 1995 issue, p. 116.