Working outside in the dirt for long hours? No thanks. At least that’s how I felt growing up and even into adulthood. Maybe it had to do with the fact that the roots really do run deep for me. My family owns a garden center in my small hometown; gardening has always been a business to me and part of everyday life. The idea of spending time getting filthy and encountering suspicious bugs over, well just about anything else, didn’t appeal to my younger self. There was no denying it, tending to a garden by choice, let alone for enjoyment, just wasn’t on my list of things to do.
When I bought a home a few years ago, I quickly realized that like it or not, I had to do something about my neglected flowerbeds. Begrudgingly and praying not to run into any petrifying snakes (yes, even the harmless ones are petrifying), I trudged out into the mess that was my front yard. I won’t lie, it took me a while to find my groove; I tipped over the wheelbarrow more times than I’d like to admit, mistook various plants for weeds, and lost my pruners regularly. Eventually though, I started to realize there were some serious benefits to the soil underneath my fingernails.
I noticed that my mood always seemed to improve after spending even just 15 minutes out in the yard. I could let things go out in the garden, work out my frustrations and stress while I worked the earth and took care of my flowers. I felt refreshed and rewarded after putting time, effort and sweat into the challenge at hand. Working with plants requires a careful diligence and a patience that makes it almost impossible to “rush through it.” All skills I definitely struggle with. Gardening can have a positive effect on fighting stress and can do wonders for our mind without us even acknowledging it. I decided to take it a step further. I became a mindful gardener, and here’s how:
- Bare Hands – Working the soil with my bare hands, I try to pay attention to how it feels, absorbing how the dirt and air combine to create a calming, yet invigorating smell that lifts my spirits and shakes off any anger or unhappiness I have been carrying. By doing this, I find myself staying present and in the moment, which is also vital when working with small, delicate plants.
- Planting New Life – Planting and nourishing new life is one of the most gratifying parts of maintaining a garden. I have found the most joy in watching the plants that I carefully selected, fed and watered, grow and succeed. Growing some of my own food has allowed me to feel competent, self-sufficient and humbled. I am aware of this feeling whether I pick a blooming hydrangea stem or snack on home grown cucumbers that I cared for and nurtured.
- Pulling Weeds – This is most likely my favorite part of gardening. If I’ve had a bad day, am feeling stressed, or am holding onto unwanted anger or uneasiness, I consciously picture myself pull out that stressor. I work hard to visualize the thing that is bothering me and the feelings it stirs up within me. I pull out the unwanted sprout and toss it into the wheelbarrow and truly let the destructive thinking go along with it. With removing that weed from the soil, I remove that negativity from my self. The more I pull, the lighter I feel.
Don’t have a place that allows for a garden? Try a simple container garden on a porch or deck. Check with your area for a community garden with available space that you could join. Ask a neighbor if you can help out in their garden. Even a small indoor planter full of succulents or shade plants can be beneficial and rewarding.
Though these points might seem straightforward, it’s become too easy in today’s society to suffer from a racing mind, multitasking at a harmful pace and an overall disconnect from nature. By just simply pulling a few weeds you can make the decision to consciously let go of any feelings that are no longer serving you in a positive way. By taking a moment to truly be present you get the chance to enjoy one of earth’s purest gifts.
Jessica is a writer, dog lover extraordinaire, yogi, and adventurous hiker. She believes digging deep within ourselves is one of the hardest and most rewarding journeys we can take. With a bachelor’s degree in Communication she cherishes mindful conversations that inspire self-growth and awareness.
Connect with me on Your Zen Life’s Community board: jh1987
**Photo by: @alexwallace (Instagram)