The best thing about retirement is that you can slow down and enjoy the simpler things in life. Except that I keep forgetting to slow down. No. That’s not entirely true. I devote my early mornings to reading the news, walking and drinking tea on the couch with the cat on my lap. After that, my days fill.
The one thing that can make me stop everything and stand still is the view from the kitchen windows into my backyard garden. From there I step out on the patio. Starting in the spring and extending until November, my plants bring me joy. As do the dragonflies, bees and hummingbirds. Friends of ours have a garden that produces the same effect.
My reactions made me curious as to whether anyone had researched the subject of gardens and mental health.
I found reassurance from Michigan State University Extension program that I am not alone. “Nature has long been known for its relaxing qualities, as a place for humans to find tranquility and healing.”
Psychology Today shares “10 ways horticulture helps us heal, overcome anxiety, and overcome low mood.” Apparently spending time in nature “releases happy hormones,” and who could say no to the triggering of “happy hormones.” Also, “being amongst plants and flowers reminds us to live in the present moment.”
I found many on-line sources on the benefits of gardening, but didn’t focus on them because I’m not a serious gardener. Beyond pulling weeds, watering, and assembling pots of annuals every spring, my efforts are limited. Flowers and bushes are mostly what I see from my patio, and someone else planted them. So I take no credit, except for keeping them alive.
However, I’ve included one of the many references to the health benefits of getting outside and getting your hands dirty. An article in Nursing Times says, “Gardening is a source of mental clarity,” something I know I can benefit from. And that working in a garden engenders hope. You plant a seed and put your hopes that one day soon it will sprout and grow. Your hopes aren’t always fulfilled, but by the following spring you’re expecting that this year you’ll have success. If you don’t, you can always recycle them and find something better. That’s how it goes with this year’s failed strawberry crop. Next year, with more water, fertilizer, all-around attention, they’ll thrive. If not, I’ll be ready to plant daisies.