The garden as therapy

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.








About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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4 Responses to The garden as therapy

  1. For me, it’s the challenge of gardening that helps to center me. I love to create, mixing colors, various blooming times, and textures, in order to achieve the ‘ideal’ effect, which I never do! It’s the most relaxing and satisfying activity I can think of. And of course, like you, I love to just sit and absorb the beauty!

  2. Darlene says:

    Well said, Ann. And when it’s gone from your life, only then will you realize the benefits you once enjoyed from tending your garden. Sad!

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