Living in the modern world can be tough. Our constant connectedness might improve productivity, but for many people, social media dependency and living behind myriad screens also increases symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Throw in a sedentary lifestyle, and it’s clear that some aspects of our work culture do little to alleviate the effects of chronic disease and mental illness.
However, experts know that garden therapy relieves tension, drops blood pressure, and normalizes heart rate, and reduces stress. And you don’t have to be an avid camper to reap the benefits of taking in the ‘great outdoors.’ Here are green tips that will have you feeling fit, emotionally balanced, and environmentally responsible.
Many of us have been taught to keep our hands clean - and not to get filthy frolicking in the mud. But sometimes, getting our hands dirty helps us connect with the earth and our higher selves.
Time spent in nature actually increases serotonin levels, helping to regulate mood and feelings of well being. Basically, serotonin is your brain’s “happy chemical.” It’s a naturally-occurring anti-depressant that regulates your neurological chemistry and strengthens your body’s natural immunity. Without serotonin, your mood can swing rapidly, resulting in depression or anxiety.
For many, garden therapy and other light physical activity provides the antidote. Gardening offers a hobbyist alternative to traditional exercise that doesn’t require a lot of expensive camping equipment or experience. And for those who are outcome-driven people, gardening is satisfying because it improves quality of life and beautifies one’s immediate surroundings. Spending time nurturing new plants can act as a type of meditation, and connect you to the present moment.
Some are even using gardening and horticulture as a way to help
relieve the symptoms of those with PTSD. This is because garden therapy
actually reduces cortisol - the brain’s stress hormone. This might be
because gardening presents a stable environment devoid of stressful
Plus, the method by which one produces plants and vegetables remains relatively unchanged. A seed, cultivated in the same fashion - tended, watered and fertilized - usually yields the same result.
See this article for an excellent discussion: Horticultural Therapy: the Healing Power Of Gardening
Living in line with your values helps give life direction. And nothing makes you feel more in control of your circumstances than growing your own food and actively contributing to your local ecosystem..
Consider creating a vegetable garden. Even if you live in an apartment or some residence without access to much land, container gardens, raised beds, and community gardens offer an opportunity to connect with nature in a low-key way.
Another way to reduce your carbon footprint is through backyard composting. There are several different methods by which you can get rid of kitchen waste, food scraps, and garden debris.
The first method is by creating a compost bin. This can be achieved by repurposing old pallets - you can often pick these up for free on trading sites like Craigslist, or even at your local lumber yard - or building one from scratch.
Another method requires the use of worms to recycle excess food and organic material into “black gold,” aka nutrient-rich soil. This is also called vermicomposting. Basically, worms consume food scraps, which become compost after they are digested by the worms.
One of the keys to composting is striking a balance between carbon and
nitrogen-rich materials. Nitrogen-rich materials are often referred to
as greens, because of their green or vibrant hue. These are your fruits,
vegetables, coffee grounds, and anything that could be considered “fast
rotting.” On the other hand carbon-rich materials are brown in color -
and they include newspaper, cardboard, sticks, egg shells and other
organic, hardy materials.
Living your values - like reducing your carbon footprint - is a big part of mindfulness, which helps contribute to a sense of happiness. And as more and more people join the zero-waste movement, the prospect of living a self-sufficient, environmentally-conscious life becomes more and more attainable.
Gardening, composting, and living a life outside relieves stress, helps
to regulate neurological problems, and decreases symptoms of chronic
disease. But don’t take our word for it. Tell us about how gardening has
affected your life in the comments below.
Thank you to Maria Cannon for her article about garden therapy and the pleasures of getting back to nature.
Ms. Cannon believes we're never too young to dedicate ourselves to a hobby. She created Hobbyjr.org to encourage young people to find a hobby they love.
Note cards are another means to enjoy nature's gifts to us. How long is it since you got a card with news from a friend in the real mail? In times when I'm down and I receive a card from a good friend, my mood skyrockets.
Do you remember when mail came in a real envelope and a mail person came to deliver it? Checking the mailbox and finding a beautiful card from a good friend.
A joy to hold in your hands and read a handwritten, personal message. And I've created nature cards that have beautiful images of flowers and gardens, along with the bees and butterflies.
I live ocean-side on Vancouver Island and I get daily opportunities to witness and photograph our indigenous birds, sea life... all the treasures on the beach and the fishing boats. How do you like the artistic touch I give my photos? The unique painterly style combines my photos and painting.
If you would like a picture that you don't see in my "print shop", contact me and I'll be happy to let you know if it's available in the size print that you need or as a note card.
The images on this page are not available for sale.
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