Gardeners have long known that the garden – the outdoor space, the nature within it and exposure to fresh air – are elements that combine to combat stress. And there is the science to prove it. From a child to the elderly, from the vulnerable to hardworking parents, the garden can be a haven of peace and tranquillity, the perfect place to de-stress. No matter what the season, the garden has something to offer. But if your garden looks like a myriad of weeds and lacks colour and scent, the time has come to roll up your sleeves and start digging. Gardening is good for you and a pleasant stress relieving garden is the perfect antidote to a stressful, modern life.
The Science of Gardening
The garden is for everyone; the elderly can reconnect with memories as they garden, children can learn mathematical and scientific principles, parents and teenagers can relax, listening to the latest podcast or reading the latest best seller for example. Lounging around in a peaceful stress relieving garden is good for you, and science agrees.
Use Your Senses
When it comes to creating a stress-relieving garden, design the experience around your senses:
Gardens, filled with fragrant blooms, certainly provide olfactory stimulation. Scents are subtle, not overpowering, and there are some that are known to help us relax and unfold away from stress. Lavender, for example, has long been added to bath products and sleeping remedies, in order to calm the whirling mind before sleep. Along with other fragrant blooms, plant them at the edge of flower beds so that as you walk around the garden, you knock the blooms, releasing the fragrance.
Growing vegetables is good for you in so many ways. Half an hour of digging and mulching sheds calories, as well as giving your body a workout. The vegetables you grow, free from pesticides and insecticides are good for you. Sitting under the pea vines and eating peas straight from the pod is the stuff of memories and there is nothing like the sweet taste of peas, freshly plucked from the plant. Plant vegetables and fruits with companion plants to get the best from nature.
What could be more mesmerising than watching a dancing, buzzing bee as it goes about its business, hopping from one fragrant bloom to another? What is more beautiful than seeing a garden full of colour, with insects scurrying about going on with their rituals? Instead of staring at a screen, why not stare at the garden? Allow yourself to drift away, gently swinging in a hammock in the trees or on a comfortable rattan day bed, and watch nature at its best – and marvel at the fact that all this is in your garden!
Textures are important too. For stress relief, there are many elements that combine together and yet, we give little thought to how touch affects the mind, body and soul. We know that human touch can be restful and reassuring. In effect, this is what you want to create in your multi-sensory garden. There are, of course, some experiences of touch we don’t want – such as the sting of a nettle – but there are other plants that are more conducive to being touched by the human hand. When was the last time you ran your fingertips through the dancing fronds of reeds or tall grasses? Or the soft, fragrant leaves of a geranium? Lambs Ears are a particular favourite of ours. The garden, with clever planting, can be a haven of stress relief, and touch is one sense that you shouldn’t ignore.
And the final sense, hearing. At the end of the day, give yourself 20 minutes to enjoy the peace and quiet of the garden. Lie on a day bed, close your eyes and train your ears to focus on the sounds of nature and not those of man-made origin. Block out the sounds of car engines and trains, or the dull roar of planes overhead, and instead listen for the rustling of the leaves on the trees and the grasses as the wind gently moves their fronds. Listen to the birds, their calls to one another and the buzz of an insect as it whizzes past you. Listen to the gentle movement of water as it tumbles and frolics down the waterfall. The garden, no matter how big or small, is a truly wondrous place, where stress simply peels away.
*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.