How mindful gardening can boost your wellbeing

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My memories of gardening stem from my early childhood. I remember watching my grandfather toiling for long stretches of time in the cold, wet and misty garden – digging and planting and mowing and trimming – it all seemed like such exhausting and relentless work. However, as I’ve grown older and have a garden of my own to tend to, I’ve come to appreciate the peace, tranquillity and joy that can be discovered from taking care of my own little patch of earth, especially through the pursuit of mindful gardening.

So how can mindful gardening boost our mental and physical wellbeing?

Mindful gardening can help us to escape the stresses of day-to-day life and create a sense of calm, particularly in the non-threatening space of the suburban garden.  It’s important to highlight from the start that gardening is recommended by many GPs across the UK. In fact, the Royal Horticultural Society teamed up with GPs in 2019 as part of a new scheme to prescribe gardening activities to patients with dementia and mental health struggles. In 2021, the RHS released research that revealed those who garden every day have wellbeing scores 6.6% higher and stress levels 4.2% lower than people who don’t garden at all, and scientists and researchers continue to research the benefits of therapeutic horticulture on mental health outcomes today. 

A key benefit from mindful gardening is simply creating some space in our frantic world – having some precious time alone in nature, soaking up some natural daylight and breathing in the fresh air. Mindful gardening allows us to step out of the thinking mind, to instead create a space to think more mindfully and connect with our emotions and feeling tones.

It’s easy to understand the recent rise in communal gardening, boosting wellbeing for many through increased community and social connection. These schemes also facilitate the sharing of loving kindness, a recognition of our common humanity, and of course, help in reducing loneliness and isolation. Time in green spaces can even increase longevity and provide a sense of purpose and accomplishment, even when our wider world feels aimless or uncertain. 

Mindful gardening also supports us to create and sustain healthy habits. This could include growing our own fresh produce, which encourages healthier eating habits and better nutrition. The physical activity and exercise gained indirectly through gardening can also help boost our flexibility, strength, and balance, particularly crucial in older age.

It’s clear that time to connect with nature, wildlife, plants, and green spaces can all help to reduce stress and anxiety and promote a sense of calm and wellbeing.

So how can we all try some mindful gardening?

Mindful gardening doesn’t have to be complicated – it is simply slowing down, noticing and being present in the moment – right here, right now.

When starting our first foray into mindful gardening, we should remember to value what we have created, and the hard work we’ve put into building our own personal oasis. Slowing down and being present is key here – not thinking about the next task that needs doing, or ruminating on what didn’t go well or grow last year. Simple first steps could include boosting appreciation for the wildlife, birds, and flowers around us with a short gratitude practice each morning in the garden. Being grateful for the smaller things in life that are already here and the sense of spaciousness and nature around us. 

We could also try engaging with our senses in the garden – the sights, smells, sounds, even tastes and touch. Being at one with the intention of planting, really being fully aware of the touch of the soil on our hands or the grass beneath our feet – literally grounding ourselves in the present moment. Perhaps we might like to study a flower close-up – becoming aware of the shapes and textures of the petals – soaking up the awe of nature and her beauty.

Many people report using the time in the garden as a physical and mental check-in, literally asking, ‘what do I need right now, in this moment?’ Focusing on our body movements as we water our plants in the evening, or as we return some tools to the potting shed can all help us to become more mindful. Following a regular, short body scan as we begin our day in the garden can help to bring awareness to the whole body, noticing any physical sensations, cultivating present moment awareness, and practicing non-judgment of our busy, restless mind – not trying to change anything, just allowing things to be as they are.

Time in the garden is also time away from distractions, simply working on the task at hand and unplugging from the troubles of the everyday. Mindfully planting the bulbs, pruning the shrubs, sowing the seeds – literally smelling the roses! We might even like to send out a kind intention to our plants – ‘may you be healthy; may you grow with ease’ – expanding our sense of loving kindness to the nature surrounding us. Similarly, we could try breathing out difficulty and negativity with the action of mindful gardening – seeing our weeding as a visualisation of pulling out the stressors from our lives.

I often saw my grandfather standing motionless in the middle of his garden at dusk, perhaps staring dreamily into the trees or leaning idly on his garden fork. I understand now that gardening was not another awful chore he had to ‘get through’, but a real moment of peace and presence in his life. I wish us all the same joy and ease in our pursuit of mindful gardening.

Finding time and space for ourselves is an act of self-care and self-compassion, and if you are interested in learning more about making time for you why not join our Compassionate Mindful Resilience course, or if you are a teacher who wants to share this wisdom then join us and learn to teach this wonderful course that enables us to find space in our busy worlds.



Introducing Victoria Abbott:

Victoria Abbott works within careers education, advice and guidance at University College London, where she’s also a well-being champion and mental health first-aider. She also supports exhausted, anxious, busy women to create a calmer, happier and less fearful way of life through her work as an ICF trained compassion coach and mindful mentor. Victoria also teaches the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) group programme, and as a trainee eco-therapist, hopes to blend both mindfulness, compassion and nature connection in her future offerings.

Instagram: @i_am_mindfully_victoria
LinkedIn: mindfully-victoria



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