Thursday, October 25, 2018

Why do we Garden?

Nature's garden
For this blog post, I would like to consider the big picture of why we are drawn to gardening.  Taoist created gardens to improve human health, and in Mesopotamia the land was used as it was found, with hillsides, depressions, streams, paths and canals incorporated into the garden's plan.  A 17th century guide advises readers to ‘spare time in the garden…. there is no better way to preserve your health’.  Since the beginning of time, nature has been used for its restorative value. 
Many contemporary studies show the direct positive impact nature has on humans.  It has been proven many times that nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical well-being (reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones).  In one study, patients in a hospital healed faster on the side that had a view to a natural space.  Findings have become so convincing that some mainstream health care providers have begun to promote nature therapy for illness and disease prevention.

‘Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better’. Albert Einstein
Connecting to Nature
Looking ahead, looking behind. 
How do you connect to nature?
Although we are part of nature, many in modern society are quite removed. We’ve become dependent on technology, removed from our senses or intuition.  People swirl unconsciously around their busy lives, oblivious to the natural world or where their sustenance comes from.  By spending time in nature improve our well-being, connect to that which gives us life and release pent up hormones and energy.  For example, when we lack serotonin (those feel good hormones) we are subject to depression. You can increase the serotonin in your brain by getting your hands dirty, getting in contact with the soil (and a soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae).  Feel better by playing in the dirt, this is where gardening comes in.
We don’t need to go deep into the wilderness to gain benefit from nature, often just out the back door. Nature provides answers, things to contemplate and learn, gets us curious and involved.  Consider the pine out back, can you appreciate its shade and the many winters it has withstood?  Be fascinated by how a little seed can metamorphosize into an edible plant...Observe how you feel the changing seasons…Be curious about the microbes affecting the character of the soil.  This is nature connection, this is when we are open to learning, growing and expanding. 
Nature's art...What can we learn to add to our garden?
The sights, smells, and sounds of the garden promote relaxation and reduce stress.  Observe the development of your plants, listen for the sounds of the wind and birds, appreciate the fragrance or texture of a plant.  And, what better way to take care of your body then to get stronger, or breathe harder, doing chores that come with having a yard and garden?  Makes 'exercise' much easier when you benefit in other ways!
From the National Garden Bureau, here are additional benefits of gardening-
* Garden for Exercise Get a good workout without even thinking about it.  Gardening can help reduce osteoporosis, strengthen or stretch muscles. And, after you're finished, you see immediate results in your garden as your physical health improves.
* Garden to add Beauty A house with a nice yard is a pleasure to look at and satisfying to live in. Think of the garden as another room to be enjoyed whether you are inside or outside.
* Garden to Learn Gardeners find that the more they learn about plants and gardening, the more they want to know. Gardening provides an outlet for creative and artistic expression.
* Garden for fresh, healthy Produce The satisfaction of nurturing and developing something for sustenance.  The food you grow yourself is the freshest you can eat.
Heart rocks in the natural landscape
* Garden for emotional needs and spiritual connections Gardens play an important part in our well-being. A garden might serve as a tranquil retreat or private escape from the demands of everyday life. The beauty of flowers can lift spirits, while pulling weeds can be a great release for stress and excess energy. A harvest of colorful flowers or tasty vegetables provides a sense of achievement and feelings of success.  On a higher level, gardening provides a spiritual connection to life. It's a miracle to take a tiny seed, nurture it, and watch it grow into a beautiful flower or delicious food for your table. Tending a garden also contributes to improving your own living space, the environment and our planet (from Why Garden? The National Garden Bureau's Top Ten Reasons).
So, why might you spend time in the garden?  Just by enhancing our awareness about why we garden may, in turn, increase our enjoyment and appreciation for the effort we put forward.  So, get out and play in the dirt, allow yourself to feel fascinated with the process of life, knowing we are part of all of this.  Gardening may be your therapy leading you toward a happier and healthier life. 
Joelle Dunaetz has a background in landscape design, wellness coaching and supporting people in getting out in nature. She enjoys educating people on how increase awareness, appreciate life and make healthy choices for their well-being and the well-being of the planet.  She also spends time at the Gilpin County Extension office and tinkers in her own garden.

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