Go ahead, get dirty

There’s a new virus emerging from the pandemic, the gardening bug; it’s a good bug to catch.

The rush on gardening centres has left supplies in short stock. Even gardening virgins are being drawn to this ancient practice.

From a very practical perspective, the desire to grow our own food emerges from a concern for food security, but it turns out there’s much more to the story

Horticulture therapy, originally developed for U.S. soldiers returning from war, has expanded and is used in elder-care, psychiatric-care, prisons, and with children. It’s something to consider as we live in these uncertain times.

The health benefits of gardening have been the subject of research that reveals both physical and psychological bounty.

  • Decreased anxiety and depression 
  • Increased hope, purpose, and sense of achievement
  • Increased sense of calm
  • Decreased behavioural issues in children
  • Improved cognitive function
  • Increased sense of satisfaction, and vigor
  • Decreased cortisol, a stress hormone
  • Increased secretion of beneficial hormones, such as serotonin and dopamine
  • Improved diabetes, heart health, and longevity
  • Decreased body mass index
  • Improved immune function
  • Improved quality of sleep

Gardening is a stabilizing force during times of uncertainty. If you plant a radish seed, you can bet the seed will produce a radish. A core stimulus for stress is lack of control, and with a garden we can control what emerges.  

Plants call us to present moment awareness, as we use our senses in touching, smelling, and seeing plants emerge. Tending our plants, we let go of concerns of the past and worries of the future, and are drawn to what’s real now. Simple acts such as weeding, pruning, and dead-heading flowers easily soothe our systems, as we let go of the virtual reality of our minds and our devices. 

Being connected to, and caring for other living things, engaging in learning, and creativity sustain us. Watching new life spring forth from a tiny seed is exciting. Each morning, I can’t wait to do my ‘plant patrol,' and find myself chuckling at the many conversations we have about our emerging bean seeds. My goodness, I’ve even texted pictures of seedlings to our daughters.

Even small balconies and outdoor sitting areas can be turned into places of living beauty, and resourceful apartment dwellers are growing many vegetables in pots. Community gardens abound in urban spaces, for good reason. There are even places to volunteer to help with gardening, such as Hospice House and Joanna’s House.

If it’s not possible to plant anything, there are big benefits to just being in nature. Forest bathing and being out in nature is restorative, and is shown to reduce stress and feelings of anger and anxiety. 

The changes forced upon us by the pandemic have allowed me to realize the sneaky way my previously busy lifestyle had robbed me of old pleasures. I’m delighted to rediscover my previous love of gardening, once born of need for inexpensive produce, now born of desire. 

Despite the constraints of the isolation, I’ve found myself filled with joy and excitement as I rediscover old passions. I’ve reclaimed parts of myself I thought were long dead, and I don’t want to let them go.

This pandemic has certainly reminded me of what’s truly important in life, and with this, many of my first world problems have simply fallen away. May I never forget.


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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