Gardening and Mindfulness: What's the connection?

Why the Great Outdoors is so… great. Ahem.

Before I got into gardening, I used to be sick to death of people banging on about how calming it was. I didn’t get it. How could scrambling about in the soil, getting thorns in your hands and sweat in your eyes, be relaxing?

Mr Greenfingers thought the same. With “bad back” genes in his family, constantly crouching over to tend to some shrubs wasn’t exactly his idea of a good time.

But all that changed once we actually tried it. We became gardening converts. Addicted to the highs of creating something beautiful. But it wasn’t even the results we craved. Nope, with gardening, we were hooked on the feeling.

Why people garden for fun

When we lived in the city, some of our friends had plots in community gardens. They’d spend their Sundays pruning and weeding and tending to these teeny bits of land… and quite frankly, we thought they were nuts! We’d rather enjoy a lazy Sunday off than “working”, thank you very much.
But finally, we began to recognise what those friends had long understood. That gardening is fun! It’s a healthy, active and rewarding way to socialise. To connect with like-minded people. To contribute to a community and in doing so, become happier.

But all that changed once we actually tried it. We became gardening converts. Addicted to the highs of creating something beautiful. But it wasn’t even the results we craved. Nope, with gardening, we were hooked on the feeling.

laughing gardeners

But gardening digs a lot deeper than that

But all that changed once we actually tried it. We became gardening converts. Addicted to the highs of creating something beautiful. But it wasn’t even the results we craved. Nope, with gardening, we were hooked on the feeling.

Right to the “root” of our problems, if you will. All that fresh air, exercise and greenery can lead to people feeling less stressed, anxious and even depressed. It also makes us more mindful people – something which we can bring into every aspect of our lives.

Here’s how gardening leads to mindfulness:

1. Gardening takes place in the present

Mindful gardening moment
Feel the fern! A gardener enjoying a mindful moment.

Sure, you might wonder about what a plant will become in the future. Or you might kick yourself for neglecting to do any weeding over the past 2 weeks. But really, gardening is an activity for the present moment.

As you focus on the task at hand, your other thoughts, plans and worries seem to melt away. They’re still there somewhere, of course, but… they can’t really affect you while you’re in a flow state. If you do get distracted by them, it’s usually only momentarily. Then you bring yourself back to the task at hand (hopefully before you snip anything you shouldn’t!) 
This present moment awareness is the very foundation of mindfulness. And it has all kinds of advantages for our daily lives.

Monks spend hours sweeping leaves outside their monasteries for good reason. Sure, they’re adhering to the whole concept of karma yoga, selflessly doing tasks with no attachment to the outcome. And so on. Well done, them.

2. Gardening teaches us patience

There ain't not shortcuts when you're growing flowers. Water, weed, repeat.

In today’s world, we’re used to things being pretty damn convenient. Hungry? Order takeout to your door with the click of a button. Need a lift? Uber’s got you covered. Feeling lonely? Well… plenty of apps can service you, too. (Not that Mr Greenfingers and I know anything about the online dating world!)

The thing is, we’ve become so used to instant gratification that we’ve forgotten the joy of waiting. Of anticipation. Of the interminable sweetness of Christmas Eve, to deliver an even greater gift come morning. 

Gardening gives us that feeling back. You plant something with mounting excitement one day and then… you wait. And wait. And wait. Until it seems like nothing will change. And then! A little green shoot, a blooming bud, a burst of colour… and it’s just like Christmas all over again. Your patience is rewarded a thousandfold.

With gardening, you simply can’t expect instant results. That’s why it cultivates patience – another wonderful attribute that we can bring into our daily lives.

3. Gardening promotes gratitude

Breathe
You can help my plants grow any day sweetie.

Ever heard the expression: “Stop and smell the roses”? It’s an oldie, but a goodie. Because sometimes we’re so busy rushing around, caught up with work and family life, that we forget to do just that. Even when we make an effort to sit out in nature – like going to the park at lunchtime – our heads are often in our phones. We neglect to appreciate (or even see) all the little miracles surrounding us.

Gardening, on the other hand, makes us grateful for these little miracles. We learn to slow down, to work on a grassroots level with nature and in doing so, to wake up and see what a bloody marvellous thing it is.

Gardens are great. That’s why we’re so grateful for our garden. 😉

Conclusion: Pretty mindful stuff, eh?

Remember, learning to cultivate mindfulness won’t happen overnight. Just like your vegetable patch won’t suddenly burst forth all the trimmings for a Sunday roast, you’re not going to become instantly zen from a little hosing.

In fact, chances are you’ll be fairly frustrated at the beginning. You’ll get hot. And sweaty. And not in 50 Shades of Grey (Green) way.

But after a while, you’ll learn to appreciate – even enjoy – the process. You’ll notice the almost meditative state you reach as you spend time on your garden, and just how patient you can become. After a while, you’ll start noticing how these attributes of awareness, patience and gratitude trickle into your regular life, too. Helping you become a nicer and kinder colleague, friend, partner and parent.

All that from a bit of gardening? Who knew?! I certainly didn’t, prior to becoming Lady Greenfingers. But I do now. Thankfully. 😉

Happy (mindful) gardening.

Emma - Lady Greenfingers

Emma - Lady Greenfingers

Hi there – I'm Emma but call me Lady Greenfingers. I'm a recovering city girl who has reconnected with the joys of country living. Learning to grow my own veggies was a lifelong dream and now that dream is my daily reality! I want to help others enjoy the magic of gardening, too.

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