The Meditative Gardener: How Gardening Can Help You Practice Mindfulness
Many of us begin gardening to improve the aesthetic appeal of our property, or perhaps to grow fresh and budget-friendly veggies. There is something so appealing about nurturing life and watching it grow. It calls to us. It makes us feel good.
However, we often do not think of gardening as an activity that can directly impact and improve our mental health and well-being.
Gardening is a wonderful form of meditation and mindfulness. Meditation and mindfulness practice, in turn, have huge impacts on our mental state.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines mindfulness as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”
Mindfulness practice helps you cope with stress better, improves your emotional intelligence and mental clarity, and boosts acceptance and self-control.
How Does Gardening Help Practice Mindfulness?
Our thoughts tend to wander. When you are mindful, you are in the present moment. Your focus and attention are solely on the task at hand.
Gardening is a form of movement meditation that teaches us to be mindful and present. Similar to yoga, it is a flow state. This means you are fully immersed in the experience. Your feelings, enjoyment and focus are concentrated on digging, planting, pulling, or watering. No time matters besides the now.
Gardening Connects Us to the Earth and Nature
It is important for us to reconnect with nature every now and again. Technology has made it convenient to max out our attention spans. It has made it easy to live in the past or ruin the present with worries about the future. In nature, we are forced just to be and exist alone with our thoughts.
For some, this may be a daunting concept. However, being in nature and in the present moment both have huge mental benefits, including improved mood and increased energy.
When gardening, you have to be conscious of the moment. You have to be mindful of where the plants are placed. Is there room to grow? Will they get enough sunlight? You connect with nature and the present moment through these decisions and actions.
It’s like a detox for the mind. Digging into the soil and connecting with the earth grounds us. It allows us to be in the present moment. Our thoughts are not in the past or future but in the now. By doing so, we nurture our gardens and our minds.
Gardening Teaches Us that Life is Precious
Gardening demonstrates the beauty of life. You get to watch your plants blossom, flourish, and bloom. It can signify new beginnings, a new chapter, and healing. Tearing out the weeds aligns with ridding yourself of toxic and negative energy or emotions. It allows room for growth and positivity in your life.
From the dirt arises bigger and better things. We rise above our problems. It reminds us that no matter how bad something may seem, it is temporary. It, too, will pass, allowing for light and hope to shine through.
However, it also shows us the fragility of life. One bad storm could potentially wreck your thriving garden. Life is a gift, and you never know when it might come to a sudden end. It reinforces the idea that we only have right now. Yesterday has passed and tomorrow has yet to happen. It reminds us to be mindful and present at this moment.
Gardening Nurtures and Expands Creative Thought
Gardening allows us to dive into the creative part of our brains. Being outdoors boosts our mood and energy levels, increasing cognitive thinking and brain function. This clarity combined with inspiration provided by nature expands and broadens our creative abilities.
Gardening in itself is considered an art form by many. Creative experiences are considered to be very meditative. Gardening is generally a quiet activity that can foster problem-solving and critical thinking.
So, allow your creativity to flow! Let go of your worries or problems. Focus on creating in the here and now. Let go of any judgments or biases you have about creating. See where your thoughts take you in the moment. Experience it. Feel it.
It Allows Time for Self-Reflection
Gardening is a time where your thoughts go uninterrupted. Let your thoughts come and go. Take advantage of this me-time. Focus inward. Reflect.
Take into account your emotions. How are you feeling in this experience? What emotions are you letting go of or letting in? Mindfulness practices involve being aware of your emotions and thoughts. Acknowledge any of these that enter your mind. Feel your emotions in the moment. Achieve a heightened self-awareness.
As humans, we are naturally flawed. We let our emotions take control. Awareness of your emotions and your thoughts help you take back that control. Your emotions do not have to run your life. Your reaction and how you deal with these emotions do.
Self-reflection can be a form of mindfulness, and it can, also, fast-forward you to a state of mindfulness. It helps you work through your problems and eventually be present in the now.
It Lowers Stress and Anxiety
We have all been there. You can’t focus. You have trouble paying attention. You’re stressed out. Your body is here, but your mind is elsewhere, exploring different options and scenarios. It’s all you can think about. Our thoughts wander when we are stressed.
Gardening helps reduce stress and anxiety. When we are relaxed, we have more potential to be mindful in the present time.
It also puts control in perspective. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try and nurture a plant, it just won’t flourish and eventually dies. The climate or weather may to be blame, or perhaps the soil just wasn’t right for it. It reminds us that some things are not within our control, and that’s okay. It is part of life.
However, there are certain aspects you can control. As aforementioned, you can control yourself and your emotions. Be conscious and aware of this. Feeling a lack of control can elevate stress levels. Try not to get stuck on these aspects.
Gardening can help put into perspective what you can control and how to be mindful and aware of these entities. Gardening can also produce feelings of accomplishment that help to combat depression. Garden for your mental health. Rejuvenate and cleanse your mind and soul.
How Can You Promote Mindfulness in Your Garden?
First, leave the phone inside. Limit distractions. Just be.
Ignore the time. Dedicate an afternoon to gardening. Let it slow you down from the fast pace of today’s society.
Be patient. Plants take time to grow and bloom. It takes time to get good at being present. Don’t feel let down if you find your thoughts wandering. Let it happen, then refocus on your task. Mindfulness practice does get easier, and gardening promotes the perfect environment to foster it.
Listen to your intuition. We so often ignore our gut instincts. This time, go with it. Allow your intuition to guide you. Crash through those mental blocks.
Look for metaphors when you garden. A new plant equals a new life and a new chapter, or it can stand for healing and recovery. Find connections to your life and harness that energy. Use it to make your life better and to further your personal growth and development.
Gardening can also reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke, lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and help you maintain a healthy weight. Need we say more?
If you are new to gardening, start with a small project. Maybe start with one flower pot to get in the groove.
Reconnect with the present, nature and you. Use gardening as your hobby to harness mindfulness practices and lead your best life. It’s another reason to get outside (Which a lot of people are sorely lacking!) and can promote positive well being.
A quiet, aware and calm mind can lead to the best version of you and open doors of opportunity. Reach your optimal potential. Be mindful. Experience the now.