Gardening is good for our mental and physical wellbeing and it’s already beingrecommended by many GPs across the UK, so as we continue to seek natural havens to escape the stresses of day-to-day life, it’s perhaps unsurprising that gardening therapy has become one of 2019’s biggest trends.
Even at the Chelsea Flower Show in May, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, co-designed the RHS Back to Nature Garden with Davies White, inspiring children, families and communities to get back to nature, while highlighting the benefits of the great outdoors and how being active in nature can positively impact our physical and mental health.
Case in point: the garden has been relocated to the Dewnans Centre in Dawlish (part of the Devon Partnership NHS Trust), creating a beautiful green space for patients and hospital staff to enjoy.
Many Brits have taken it upon themselves to create their own green havens and connect with nature by taking part in communal gardening. This is by no means new, but it has never been more significant. According to a study published by Harvard University, participants who have access to green spaces live healthier lives, with lower rates of physical and mental illness.
Essentially, gardening is a great opportunity to step out of the thinking mind and, provides the optimal environment to support mindful thinking.
Sarah Romotsky, Director of Healthcare at mindfulness and meditation app Headspace, believes gardening and mindfulness are a perfect match.
Studies have shown gardening helps to alleviate stress, with 30 minutes of outdoor gardening decreasing cortisol levels and improving mood. Headspace can also improve focus and increase resilience, and in 10 days reduce stress and increase positivity and happiness by 16 per cent.
According to Sarah, by combining gardening and mindfulness we increase the benefits of gardening for our wellbeing even further, allowing us to appreciate the nature surrounding us, whilst being present and stopping to smell the roses.
So on that note, find out how to be a mindful gardener…
1) Appreciate the nature surrounding you
Before tending to your garden, take the time to really appreciate all the hard work you have already put into creating your own personal oasis. If you are just getting started, be grateful of the garden space available to you. Spend a moment to centre yourself and forget about the workday and take in all the smells, sounds and sights around you before picking up tools and getting started.
2) Garden using all your senses
The best way to become a mindful gardener is to stop worrying when your garden will be finished and focus on enjoying the actual journey. Take a moment to appreciate how the soil feels between your fingers, the texture of knotted roots, the softness of newly budded flowers and the sweet smell of nectar. Admire the array of changing colours, textures and patterns and notice that all things look beautiful, even when not in full bloom.
3) Study a plant
Find somewhere quiet to sit and examine a plant or flower. Often, we overlook small details which means we miss the natural beauty around us. By taking time to be mindful, you’ll notice details you have never seen before. Pay attention to each part of the flower in turn – how do the petals look in this moment? Is the centre of the flower flat or curved? Are the leaf edges smooth or serrated? If you feel your mind starts to wander, simply bring your attention back to your breathing for a few seconds, then return to the exercise.
4) Set aside all distractions
It’s easy to get distracted, especially if a task doesn’t give you instant gratification or results. In order to stop the distractions in their tracks make sure your phone is switched off and totally unplug. For those with little ones, it may help to allow them to roam and play in the garden, so that you can keep an eye on them without the worry of what they might be up to indoors.
5) Plant with intention
Be fully present in the act of planting. Notice how the soil feels as you dig and take the seeds or plant in your hands and silently state your intentions. May you grow, may you be healthy and share how you look forward to seeing the plant sprout to life. When covering the hole with soil, and finishing potting, water lightly and take the time to listen to the sound of the water hitting the earth.
6) Clear up the negativity by weeding
If you’re having a particularly stressful or difficult day – use weeding as a visualisation of consciously pulling out the stressors in your life. Imagine all the things that bother you or make you feel uneasy and imagine yourself letting go or removing the negative thoughts from your mind. When tossing out all the unwanted weeds and sprouts, truly let the destructive thinking go along with it. The more you pull, the lighter you will feel.
7) Check in with yourself
Ensure you are taking the time to check in with yourself. How are you feeling? Focus on your body movements as you breathe in and out and water the plants around you, scan your body from top to toe. Don’t focus too much on any discomfort, aches or pains but take note of how you feel and the way your body feels against the freshly cut grass. If you find yourself getting distracted, bring your focus back to your body and try again.