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How to practice mindful gardening

As seasoned gardeners already know — and those new to gardening are just discovering — there’s something incredibly healing and hopeful about planting seeds and watching them grow. If the garden is a place that offers a sense of peace and pleasure, adding elements of mindfulness to this naturally meditative hobby may make the activity even more impactful on our well-being.

While meditation is certainly one avenue we can use to practice mindfulness, there are endless ways to infuse these teachings into our daily lives. Mindfulness can come into play while we cook, exercise, work, or even as we spend time enjoying pastimes like gardening.

Whether sowing seeds, pruning bushes, or pulling weeds, this environment can serve as an ideal place to practice being fully present, turning our attention entirely to the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of the gardening tasks at hand.

Mindfulness - Mindful gardening
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What is mindful gardening?

Key takeaways:

  • Being fully present in the garden can help improve mood

  • In this setting, we might also become more aware and accepting of change

  • Check in with your senses before you get your hands dirty

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The benefits of nature and gardening

For hundreds of years, across all different cultures and countries, spending time in the great outdoors has been touted as a remedy for an expansive list of health ailments. While a dose of nature is often still brushed off as superstition, immersing yourself in a green landscape comes with a long list of impressive, science-backed benefits.

A 2018 analysis summarizing the findings of 143 studies on the topic found that exposure to green spaces can have a measurable impact on physical health, improving blood pressure, cortisol levels, heart rate, and other cardiovascular issues.

Researchers have also found that after only 15 minutes in nature, stress and anxiety levels significantly decreased — a finding many likely came to experience firsthand during the COVID-19 pandemic when America’s parks saw a nearly 100% increase in visitors.

While these benefits can be experienced in all different types of green spaces, using your time in nature to tend to plants can come with an additional set of benefits.

One study observed that after just one gardening session, participants reported significantly higher levels of self-esteem and mood, as well as reduced levels of fatigue and depression. Another study makes a connection between gardening and body image, finding that the more time research participants spent in the garden, the more accepting of their body they became.

As so many of these benefits overlap with the ways in which mindfulness can positively impact overall well-being, the garden can serve as an ideal place to bring both practices together. Taking a few minutes to fully ground ourselves in the serene setting can be a great way to slow down the mind, step away from thought, and feel truly present in our body and in nature.

Try this free meditation to connect with nature

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Watch Mini-Meditation: Appreciate nature - 3 minutes

The connection between mindfulness and gardening

A lush, immersive space like a garden filled with fragrant flowers, buzzing insects, and vibrant colors is a great place to slow down the mind and focus our attention only on what we’re experiencing right here and now. Mindfulness is the ability to be present and engaged on the task at hand without distraction of thought, and many of us with green thumbs will be familiar with feeling at one with nature when gardening.

The abundance of a blooming garden can also serve as an excellent source of gratitude, and research shows that when we take time to note the things we are grateful for through mindfulness practices like meditation or journaling, it can lead to a greater sense of happiness and well-being.

As we practice being fully present in the garden, we’ll also begin to become more aware of how it changes over time — both dramatically, from season to season, and subtly, one new bud forming as another fades. As many of us have difficulty coping with change, regularly noting how often and certain it happens in nature may help us become more accepting of it in other areas of life.

How meditations in the Headspace app can help us practice mindful gardening

For a bit of guidance on how to bring more mindfulness into this hobby, the Headspace app offers subscribers several courses and single meditations on topics related to parenting, including:

  • Gardening single meditation. Headspace co-founder and former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe offers a helping hand in the narrated how to really feel each sensation, from the warmth of the sun to the feeling of plants, flowers, or mud in the hands.

Whether tending to a few pots on a patio or a sprawling green space, adding an element of mindfulness to a gardening routine may be a seamless way to deepen the wide-ranging well-being benefits of both practices. In time, we may walk away from our plants with both a freshly picked harvest and a clearer, calmer mind.

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