De-Stressing in the Garden: 7 Tips to a More Natural Existence
By Debbie Eisenstadt Mandel
It seems like we are always living on high stress alert whether triggered by environmental or self-induced pressures. By now we have read enough articles to know that stress is the root of all evil. It saps the joy right out of our lives. However, we possess the ability to restore our natural bio-rhythms. Gardening or strolling in a garden is a great natural stress reliever. While stress plays havoc physiologically, even depleting our bones, research shows that gardeners do not suffer from osteoporosis because of weight bearing activities like digging, raking, squatting to plant shrubs, lifting bags of soil, or pushing a lawnmower. Because gardening is a beloved hobby, gardeners lose track of time and therefore do not age while immersed in their passion! In addition, gardening lowers blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. We spend our lives wishing to return to the Garden of Eden in the afterlife; yet the Garden of Eden is here on earth… Here are seven tips for detoxifying in the garden.
- A visit to a garden, your own, your friend’s or a formal botanical park, will infuse your spirit and your body with serenity. A garden is a place where great changes occur. Plant life does not seem to move in a garden, but there is constant movement and renewal. Similarly, we can make small changes, one step at a time. We can do so without the pressure of time, at a slower, more natural pace.
- Plant life knows how to let go of the past. A plant dies in the winter and regenerates in the spring with no past consciousness—just a fresh new life growing towards the sun. If we learn to let go of resentment, anger and negativity, we make room for abundance in our lives. Like a tree, we grow towards the light.
- A garden provides a wonderful setting for meditation. Hard work and dreams combine to teach us to bring out the best in ourselves. The universe’s handwriting is found in every garden: it is up to us to read the messages. Meditation helps us to get in touch with the still point within. When we meditate, we watch our worries float by without judgment. We become receptive to inspiration as nature permeates our senses.
- Everything growing in the earth began at the seed level. We heal from the seed level as well – from the inside out. If our thinking and spirit are balanced and positive, we stay healthy or heal quickly. In order to heal dis-ease, we need to approach it from underground, the internal spiritual and emotional causes for stress-induced illnesses.
- Gardening complements a comprehensive fitness program. Exercise sheds harmful stress hormones, raises endorphins and helps us think more clearly. Walking, stretching, finger dexterity, balance, strength, isometric positions and core stability are experienced in gardening. In other words, contraction, expansion, elongation and rest, all necessary building blocks for a sound mind in a sound body, parallel the components of plant life.
- Simplify your existence and clean out the clutter. Zen philosophy teaches that all of nature is housed in a flower. When you appreciate a flower with your five senses, being fully present in your awareness - not worrying about children, parents or co-workers, then you are fully in the moment and stress-free. Appreciating the little things in life provide the key to happiness.
- Adjust your bio-rhythms to nature to release stress. Technology has enabled us to work all hours of the night in unnatural light. However, if we let nature be our guide, the way gardeners do, we would honor the darkness and rest. In fall and winter, the days are shorter, so we wind down at night and get more sleep. The trees lose their leaves, telling us to simplify and organize. In winter we contract and take stock of ourselves. In spring there is a different vibrational energy as we spring into action, teeming with activity, enjoying increased daylight. Summer makes us hot and lazy and we wind down to take those long weekends away from work. When we visit a garden during the four seasons, we appreciate the changes and absorb the corresponding mindsets. Remember human nature got its start in a garden.
Debbie Eisenstadt Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer at Brooklyn College. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WLIE 540 AM in New York City and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com