To some, gardening may seem like a dreaded chore rather than something to look forward to. Digging through dirt, pulling up weeds, and spreading fertilizer may not seem like the most relaxing exercise, at least on the outside. However internally, there is something innately calm and wonderful about tending to your own plot of Earth, caring for seedlings, and watching the fruits of your labor grow.
Admittedly, I’m one of those people who operates at a fast pace, often cramming too much into my day. Rushing here, going there, fulfilling this duty, meeting that obligation… which leaves very little “me time.” This is the reason I became hooked on gardening – it is one of the only ways I could slow down my day and appreciate what is around me. It’s a meditative process. The tasks are often simple and repetitive, but demand patience and perseverance. In no time, my mind seems to gently switch off, while my hands and body do the work.
Not sure where to start? Here are some of my favorite routes to relaxation in the outdoors - whether you have a garden or not!
So much of gardening involves observing, looking around, and taking it all in. It’s how you know how your plants are doing; ask yourself: “Do they seem healthy and happy? What do they need? What can I do?” This is crucial to learning more about your plants. Start by taking in the whole space, whether it be a balcony overlooking the city, or a large open pasture in the countryside. Where does it reach? Where are its boundaries? How does the space all work together? Once you’ve noted your surroundings, you can zoom in on the details. Challenge yourself to look for tiny changes in the plants around you. Are there buds on the trees? Have petals faded in color? Have leaves fallen? Looking for little things takes time and concentration, and you’ll feel your mind clear as you do it.
I find it impossible to go into a garden or a park and not touch some of the plants. The rough texture of tree bark; the soft, comforting sponginess of moss; the powdery delicacy of flower petals. Touching the soil is an essential part of plant care - it allows you to detect if it’s too wet or dry, to help you gauge if you are watering properly. I like to garden without gloves, it makes me feel closer to what I’m doing and there’s something deeply relaxing about feeling soil on your hands. Certain plants, such as herbs, let off amazing scents, which leads me to...
Take in a good whiff of the air - go on! A nice big breath. And then let it out. See what you can smell. At certain times of the year you can catch familiar scents from plants in the air: daphne and hyacinth in Winter, jasmine in Spring, and roses in Summer. Everything in nature has a scent to it, and even the less glamorous foliage such as fresh cut grass has a distinct aroma that can connect you further with the world around you.
Start something new
Getting familiar with greenery is the best way to introduce yourself to gardening and learning how to relax in the outdoors. But the best way to get connected with the natural world is by growing something yourself. Herbs are relatively easy to grow, indoors or out, and you get the added benefit of using them in your cooking. Whether you’ve got a small windowsill or a vast yard, planting perennial flowers (which bloom and grow for continuous seasons) will surely add some color to your day. Stop by a local greenhouse or florist to ask questions and find out what plants, flowers, herbs, or even vegetables, are right for you. Surely you will soon experience joy and satisfaction in seeing something you’ve planted take up space in the world.