As a keen gardener I know the great feelings I have after spending time connecting to the earth. I often feel better emotionally after spending time outdoors. There’s so much research to prove that gardening improves our well-being.
Many of us at some time in our lives have feelings of low energy, feeling down, melancholy or depression. Connecting with the garden and the wider outdoors can make you feel better and also more grounded.
In many studies, people with low energy, low self-esteem, negative thoughts and other forms of mental illness have shown great improvements from spending up to an hour a day in the garden. Gardening calms nerves, reduces blood pressure, reduces stress and decreases the stress hormone, cortisol.
Spending active time gardening can also burn up to 1200kj (almost 300 calories) which can encourage weight loss, improve fitness and overall health and wellbeing.
Research also shows that spending time working in the garden with others creates great friendships, improves self-esteem, gives people a feeling of belonging and being helpful and offers plenty of fresh food to enjoy and share. The fresh food grown by gardeners is packed with nutrients, which also supports good health.
People of all ages can enjoy gardening, but children in particular will have lots of fun and gain special benefits. Gardening is educational and develops new skills including:
Resilience – even with the best intentions plants will still die and get pests
Responsibility – from caring for plants
Understanding – as they learn about cause and effect (for example, plants die without water, weeds compete with plants)
Self-confidence – from achieving their goals and enjoying the food they have grown
Love of nature – a chance to learn about the outdoor environment in a safe and pleasant place
Reasoning and discovery – learning about the science of plants, animals, weather, the environment, nutrition and simple construction
Physical activity – doing something fun and productive
Cooperation – including shared play activity and teamwork
Creativity – finding new and exciting ways to grow food
Nutrition – learning about where fresh food comes from
Another way of connecting with nature is ‘being’ in nature, not ‘doing’. I am often ‘doing’ but I’m not so good at ‘being’. This leads to busy lives, stress, less nutritious foods and less time in nature. By spending time throughout the day connecting with nature we can reduce stressful feelings and increase our wellness.
Annie Clark, from The Art of Wellness (www.bewell.com.au) suggests spending 2 minutes each day focusing on something beautiful. That could be a flower, tree, a forest, bird sounds or the blue sky. Just spending the time focused on something uplifting, rather than stressful or negative thoughts can improve your health and boost your immune system. So just 2 minutes a day in nature…I think that’s pretty easy to do to achieve great improvements in our wellbeing!
BY NATHALIE NEWTON-WALTERS – SECONDARY TEACHER @ ST ANDREW’S