Let me begin by clarifying that I do not have a natural green thumb. I’ve killed more plants than I’m willing (or able) to admit. To make things even more interesting than my poor abilities, my OCD tendencies like to ensure that gardening isn’t an easy thing for me to just jump into. To begin with, there are weeds everywhere, and the more you look, the more weeds you find. It’s impossible to get them all, a concept with is maddening for someone with perfectionistic issues.
Also, it’s very dirty (because you’re digging in the dirt…duh), something I don’t struggle with by itself, but where there’s dirt, there are bugs. And spiders. I hate spiders. Plus, it’s a bit expensive, and if you don’t properly align your plants to begin with, you’re stuck looking at crooked plants…every. Single. Day. And don’t get me started on the conundrum of getting home to realize you don’t have even numbers of the right colored pots for your container garden.
Torture, I tell you.
So if gardening isn’t my natural cup of tea, why on earth am I so excited to do it every spring? Ah, now that’s a question worth exploring.
I Garden for Beauty.
As I discussed in my article about how doing art lower anxiety, there’s something wonderful about creating beautiful things, something I believe God gave us the innate desire to do. When you live in a neighborhood where nearly everyone’s house looks the same, I feel like it’s important to make my house look different, look beautiful.
For people who experiences high anxiety, as I do, it’s important to latch onto things that make us smile. When I pull up to my house and I see a lovely garden full of different herbs, vegetables, fruit, and flowers, it starts me on a positive note as I switch environments into my house. My house might look like a bomb went off inside, but at least I know the front of my house is orderly and enjoyable. And that positive sentiment will keep my stress levels up higher than they would have been otherwise.
I Garden to Get Sunlight.
As a girl who grew up under the baking Las Vegas sun, I’ve found that I’ve somewhat struggled with the lack of sunlight Central Arkansas experiences in winter and early spring. While it’s not necessarily raining all the time, the nearly constant thin, gray clouds block out direct sunlight, a component important to health, according to experts.
According US News Health article, Host of Health Benefits Attributed to Sunlight, 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight a day can provide the body with better sleep, Vitamin D, healthy serotonin regulation, and help against autoimmune diseases and Alzheimer’s.
The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health says that the UVR radiation that gets such a bad rap for sunburns is actually necessary in small quantities for the human body to get enough Vitamin D, and without enough Vitamin D, the body is far more likely to develop other health problems. While I’m one of the biggest sunscreen/cover-your-skin-from-the-sun-for-goodness-sakes fans you’ll ever meet, I can tell when I’ve been in the sun for even just ten minutes during the day…I feel a lot better.
I Garden to Relieve Anxiety.
CNN article, “Why gardening is good for your health,” A study in the Netherlands (one I ran across in more than one article) suggests that gardening is beneficial for mental health in fighting stress. Two study groups were given a stressful task. After they finished, one group was assigned to read for half an hour, while the other half was assigned to garden for the same amount of time. While both groups showed a drop in cortisol, the stress producing hormone, the group that gardened showed a much more significant drop than the group that read.
As I discussed in my article about how doing art reduces anxiety, Psychology Today’s article, “Nine Ways to Relieve Stress by Gardening,” says that using gardening to “cultivate creativity” is a valid way to manage stress. One of my absolute favorite parts of gardening is the colors. Honestly, if gardening was in black and white, I’d be a lot less inclined to do it.
Speaking of senses, which the colors feed, the sensory input I feel like I receive through gardening is highly relaxing. Sight (colors of the dirt, plants, and pots), sounds (the noises of the outdoors), smell (the scents of dirt and plants), and touch (the different textures of soil, and the sensation of pulling weeds) all help calm me. It’s a different type of stimulation than most adults get today, something I think we all need a bit of to be as well balanced as possible.
I Garden to Be With God
I’ve read that the best gardening is done without sensory stimuli from electronic devices, but I have to disagree on this one. One of my favorite things to do while I garden is listen to worship music while I enjoy God’s creation.
I’m not into the kind of meditation most people automatically think about, where you see a short man sitting cross-legged on a mat with his fingers curled into O’s, going, “Ohmmmm.” I do believe, however, in biblical meditation, the kind David talks about in Psalm 143:5 when he says, “I recall the old days; I meditate on all you have done; I reflect on your accomplishments.”
Gardening, like art, is a way to keep my hands busy (not ticcing), while my mind is allowed to move about, to float around, settling on whatever it needs to focus on, to work out. I can talk to God as I work, telling Him what I’m feeling, what I’m worried about, or simply basking in His presence. The sun is a warm reminder of His constant presence, and the garden I’m working in reflects the simplicity of what it was in the beginning, when God created Adam and Eve.
It’s time where I can be with my Father, time that’s hard to find in many other places in this fast-paced world.
I Garden for Goodies!
I had so many herbs last year that I didn’t know what to do with them (And that’s not a bad problem to have.). There’s something ridiculously fun about running out to the front yard to pick my own basil or oregano or mint. Not only can these herbs be expensive at the grocery store, knowing that I cut down on landfill trash and all the other resources used to buy all those plastic packages of herbs makes me feel just that much better, as it’s one less moral dilemma my OCD gets to face.
And also, they’re delicious!
Choosing the Garden for You
My grandpa was raised in rural Oklahoma at the end of the Dust Bowl as the son of a farmer. Needless to say, he can make anything grow anywhere. Seriously, you should see his garden bursting with ripe fruit and veggies in the middle of the Mojave Desert. I did not inherit that magical gene, but I can still enjoy gardening.
I personally prefer container gardening. I like having all my plants in neat, orderly rows. I also like dealing with plants that are raised off the ground, so pots are the perfect solution for my gardening tastes. And while I know the basics about gardening, I know there are many plants that have special needs…and I stay away from those. With my natural preference for growing herbs, all of these options help me choose which gardening is right for me.
If you decide to garden, you’ll need to make the same kind of decisions, because what’s good for one gardener doesn’t meant it’s good for the next. CNN’s article, “Why gardening is good for your health,” agrees, saying that even if you’re short on space, a few little houseplants can do the job.
So if your neighbor, Ellie Sue wins the “Best Gardenia” award every year, it doesn’t mean you have to grow Gardenias. Maybe you’ll be happier with one potted miniature rose, or one row of Lilacs. Grow whatever floats your boat (mind you it’s legal). My point is that if you grow what you enjoy, you’ll reap the most pleasure and stress-relief possible.
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