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It was the English poet William Wordsworth who said that to walk through a garden is to be “in the midst of the realities of things”, to be immersed in the primal awareness not just of nature’s beauty, but the eternal cycle of the seasons, of life, death and rebirth.
We can’t deny that cultivating and maintaining a garden, no matter how big or small is highly rewarding. From preparing the lawn to watching your seeds grow or flowers flourish, the process takes patience and dedication but is wonderfully worth it and therapeutic, too. Why are gardens so good for the soul? Sue Stuart-Smith, author of “A Well Gardened Mind“, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist has an answer: “The therapeutic power of gardens and gardening derives from the many levels on which they influence us both consciously and unconsciously – she says-. Proximity to green nature has been shown to alleviate anxiety, improve mood and revitalise cognitive functioning, as well as reducing blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol“.
In the end, a garden is far more than just a much loved physical space. It is also a mental space, “one that gives you quiet, so you can hear your thoughts“, a chance to change the usual scenery, whether from being lost in thought or being glued to a screen. What’s more, working with nature can radically transform our lives. It’s an affirmation that change is inevitable and okay.
Not convinced, yet? Drawing upon scientific data and case studies to make her case for “the restorative power of nature,” SueStuart-Smith describes the profound, positive effect of gardening and green spaces on everyone, including, for example, prisoners on New York’s Rikers Island, who when assigned to a professional gardening project are statistically unlikely to return upon release, some even finding work in public parks.
Indeed, gardening can be a mindful activity that brings us into the present moment but it is also always orientated towards the future. By tending your plants, you are also gardening your inner space and, over time, a garden is woven into your sense of identity, becoming a place to “buffer us when the going gets tough”. Are you ready to “repot” yourself?