Greener Spaces Better Places blog

Walking on sunshine: the hidden highs of gardens

Growing your own is levelling up from ‘food to fuel’ to ‘inner fulfilment’.

With the question of food security thrown to the fore during the pandemic, a movement of motivated Aussies turned to growing their own – plenty for the first time. But as it turns out, the rewards to be reaped are rich beyond produce.

A recent study by Greener Spaces Better Places shows that of those who took to the garden during the pandemic, a whopping 8 in 10 said they’ll continue to grow produce at home in 2021. So what’s so great about digging our hands in the soil and raising a veggie patch? 

 

The hidden highs to discover

Mickey Robertson, kitchen gardener from Glenmore House reveals that “Growing your own produce, however much, however little, brings such a sense of fulfilment. While the final aim may be bounty for the table and food in your belly, many have newly discovered the journey involves mind, body, all the senses and soul.”

We asked the experts to give us all the dirt behind what’s often coined ‘the harvest high’. Here’s what they said.

Image credit: Thomas Verbruggen

Relieving stress in a safe space

With the incidence of mental health issues rising in Australia, people are looking for different ways to reduce stress. According to horticultural therapist, Toni Salter, gardening is an activity that is non-threatening, non-clinical and immediately brings you into an engaging space and surroundings.

Gardening is an accessible and simple way to engage oneself in mindfulness, even when you strip it back to the basics – just getting your hands dirty.

Mindfulness in anxious times

Both active and passive forms of gardening can make a difference to your mental and physical health, says Toni. “Gardening activities like digging, shovelling and playing with soil can provide instant gratification for your mind. Focusing on an activity like this can be a great distraction from feelings of anxiety and can produce a rewarding end result. It helps to ‘stay in the moment’ and appreciate the process.”

Use your senses at every step to see, smell, taste, listen and feel the elements you are working with.

Image credit: Jonathan Kemper

A sense of accomplishment

Even more passive activities like potting up seedlings or sowing seeds can be a form of relaxation, says Toni, especially if the gardener is given choice over what is being planted. Both activities can encourage creativity and optimism through planning something that will bloom or be harvested in the future.

Hello serotonin hit

If that isn’t enough, research has also shown a healthy bacteria commonly found in soil can activate our brains to produce serotonin, aka the mood regulator, acting in a similar way as antidepressants. 

Planting roots to the wider world

If you really are limited in space, or short on energy, grow your own herbs. “There’s nothing like snipping or plucking even a few to add to your plate. And that heady aroma that accompanies each snip is bound to bring an extra sensory lift.” explains Mickey.

For those with more space and experience, bring your mindfulness practice deeper by connecting with the land and the species native to your area.

Christian Hampson, Native Horticulturalist says, natives are more resilient and best adapted to our environment, use less water and are often the most beautiful and oldest examples of flora in the world. Try planting native edibles such as midgen or midyimberries (Austromyrtus dulcis), geraldton wax (Chamelaucium uncinatum), or old man saltbush (Atriplex nummularia).

Remember…

The harvest high is a result of the mindful nature of gardening which we can all access just by showing up; being in touch with the soil, being present in each action, and feeling the innate fulfillment in harvesting one’s progress. So dig your mitts in the soil and get gardening for fresh food and that inner growth.

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