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How to Combat Stress with Gardening
If you’ve found that your life is becoming increasingly stressful (despite all the ‘conveniences’ of modern technology!) you’ll no doubt be on the lookout for ways to relax during the weekends, or at the end of a long day’s work.
If you’ve already got green fingers, you’ll know from experience that gardening can be a great stress-buster.
If on the other hand you can barely tell the difference between a hoe and a hose, you might need to be told just why gardening is so good for you.
The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.
Alfred Austin (English Poet)
Let the Sun Shine
It’s not just plants that benefit from exposure to sunlight – humans love the stuff too.
This is because it’s been shown to increase serotonin levels and these can affect your mood. It’s a large reason why many people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during the winter months, in fact.
Sunlight is also our main source of vitamin D, which helps us absorb calcium and phosphorous from our diet. If that’s not enough, studies suggest it may help lower the risk of a host of other medical problems – so you can take great comfort from your time spent out in the sun. Just remember to take appropriate caution so you don’t end up dehydrated or sunburnt.
Appreciate the Here and Now
So much of our time is spent worrying about future commitments or past failings that we have trouble simply enjoying the present moment.
Getting your hands stuck into nature with the sounds of birds, the smell of flowers and the feeling of soil on your fingertips can immerse you in the present, and help you feel connected to something much more significant than your day to day trials.
To make sure you don’t get distracted, put your phone away and give nature your full attention. If you absolutely have to tweet about your time in the garden, do it before or after you get your hands messy! Appreciating the here and now is an important part of mindfulness which is in turn is known to help alleviate stress.
Lavender is the ultimate stress buster, and has been used as part of religious rituals for millennia. Why not grow your own to make some homemade aromatherapy products?
See our page on Aromatherapy for more information.
If you’re already familiar with meditation or yoga, you’ll find that the repetitive movements involved with gardening complement it wonderfully.
Pick your mantra and get ready to give your brain a break from all the white noise that fills your head every day.
Work Up a Sweat
While gardening won’t have the same effect on your heart rate as an hour in the gym, the physical side of gardening can certainly give you a bit of a work out.
Exercise helps combat fatigue – something that stress can contribute to – and it also produces endorphins. Study after study has demonstrated that exercise has a host of positive effects, including improving your mood and helping you to get a good night’s sleep.
See The importance of Exercise and The Importance of Sleep for more information.
Depending on what you plan to do while gardening, it might be worth engaging in a light warm up or some gentle stretches beforehand.
It’s fair to say that, although they might be stress-busting, weeding and watering aren’t exactly the most exciting tasks in the world.
However, there are plenty of chances to exercise the right side of your brain and flex your creativity when designing how you want your garden to look (not to mention sound, smell or even feel). If you’re new to gardening, set your ambitions at an appropriate level – the most beautiful gardens can also be the simplest.
Studies have shown that taking part in visual art activities can bring about reductions in stress, anxiety, distress and negative emotions. Considering the extra senses involved in creating your garden, these benefits will no doubt be felt as you transform your space into a living, breathing work of art.
Share Your Garden
While there are certainly some protective gardeners out there, most are only too grateful for some help from friends or family – so why not enrol an extra pair of hands from time to time? As well as helping lighten your load, the chance to laugh, talk and catch up with those close to you will help reduce stress.
Having a strong social support network is vital for getting through testing times, so why not invite some friends around for a catch up in your new and improved garden?
Gardens aren’t only for humans, of course – birds, bees and butterflies should also be welcome. Encouraging them into your garden will completely transform your space, allowing you to connect with nature on an even deeper level.
If you’re lucky enough to have a front garden, embrace the opportunity to connect with your neighbours. You never know, you might even pick up a few gardening tips from them!
Don't Get Disheartened
Gardens are always a work in progress, so don’t let nature’s imperfections get you down.
Equally, if gardening stops being fun take a step back and ask yourself why. If you’re fed up with the amount of time you spend watering plants for example, why not replace them with drought-resistant species?
Another important tip is not to take on more than you can handle. Start small to save yourself from getting overwhelmed. If you unearth an insatiable love for gardening you can always expand your horizons.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
Understand and Manage Stress in Your Life
Learn more about the nature of stress and how you can effectively cope with stress at work, at home and in life generally. The Skills You Need Guide to Stress and Stress Management eBook covers all you need to know to help you through those stressful times and become more resilient.
Enjoy Your Efforts
Gardening can be hard work, so it’s important that you appreciate your achievements in the space you’ve given time, effort and love to create.
Enjoy alfresco dining, read a book in the sunshine, or listen to your favourite music with the added delight of birdsong in the background. It’s your garden to do with as you please, so sit back and relax.
About the Author
Alison Palmer writes for Primrose, a British-based family-run garden retailer established in 2003.
When she’s not in the garden (which is very rarely!) she enjoys cooking her home-grown produce in the kitchen – while enjoying the view of her garden!