Anxiety is fast approaching the status as the #1 health problem in the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) is predicting that by 2030 anxiety will surpass obesity as the largest threat to our overall well-being. Our need to be “plugged in” 24 hours a day, every day, immerses us in a sea of negativity. Try watching the news on television or reading about it online and it won’t take long for you to want to “run to the hills” but perhaps that is where we really need to be going.
It should really be no surprise to find out that a whole industry has arisen to help us get away from our stress. The self-styled wellness economy, which includes wellness tourism and spas, is a nearly $4 trillion dollar industry and analysts expect it to grow significantly in the next few years. It seems like an awful lot of money to spend on “clearing one’s head” but perhaps it is more indicative of just what type of priority this has become to us. However, some of the medicine to heal us from this stress and anxiety may actually be right outside our backdoors.
The physical benefits of gardening are well documented but maybe not enough attention has been paid to the mental health benefits it can provide. I have talked to many gardeners who, like myself, find their garden to be an oasis from a world that often appears to offer no such refuge.
Here are just a few of the mental health benefits that gardening provides to me personally:
- Gardening allows me to slow things down. By making time to garden, I can take my time to process the problems of the day or even decide to ignore them altogether for just a little while. I know that I’ve made better decisions after spending even just a short amount of time in my garden and big obstacles seemed more manageable too.
- Gardening fuels my creativity. I’ve often joked that some artists work in clay or with paint and that my medium is dirt. There is a self-satisfaction that comes from getting just the right color combination in your perennial border or the first flower or fruit from a plant that you’re growing for the first time.
- Being in the garden is a spiritual experience for me. Listening to the birds sing or watching an insect at work even for just a few moments helps bring me back to the realization that there is a larger world around me and it helps me to better “see the bigger picture” of God’s creation.
While gardening and nature appear to be a “new age” way to improve our spiritual wellness the reality is that people have been seeking sanctuary in growing things for thousands of years. Research shows that the ancient Persians created “relaxation gardens” and the basis of the religion of Shintoism is that spiritual powers exist in nature. I guess “stopping and smelling the roses” is really more than just an idiom.