By Jose German
For Montclair Local
Here is the second part of Jose German’s essay on the therapeutic value of gardening. German is a New Jersey environmental activist, Essex County certified master gardener and Montclair resident. He is the founder of the Northeast Earth Coalition (neearth.org), a nonprofit environmental organization.
Let’s explore our purpose and sense of belonging.
For many, respect and enjoyment of nature also leads to a sense of spirituality, and an appreciation for powers larger than ourselves. The wilderness teaches that each individual is unique, and is also part of the larger whole.
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better,” said Albert Einstein.
People understand and process environmental information through mapping, exploring and interpreting the geography and landscapes that nature offers, including obstacles and challenges of their surrounding areas. Being exposed to this type of physical activity reduces depression and anxiety, reduces the risk of disease and improves psychological well-being.
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves,” Sierra Club founder John Muir said.
Natural spaces stimulate children’s imaginations and creativity. Playing outdoors enhances self-discipline, problem solving ability and cognitive flexibility.
In recent years, health care providers have begun to recognize the therapeutic attributes of nature for treating conditions like depression and attention disorders among others. A study sponsored by the University of Illinois has shown that the greener a child’s everyday environment, the more manageable their symptoms of attention-deficit disorder.
Anne Frank summed up the therapeutic benefits of being nature.
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”
THERAPEUTIC EFFECT OF GARDENING
We all have experienced the relaxing effects of visiting a garden in bloom. The smell and sounds provide an unique experience that calms us down, and lets us concentrate on little things that we sometimes overlook. The color and texture of a flower, the fragrance, a butterfly flying around or a bumble bee doing its job as a pollinator.
Gardening has many physical benefits. It is associated with mental clarity, and a feeling of reward.
Food gardening is even more rewarding, and can be particularly gratifying especially during the harvest. Vegetable gardening keeps us busy, from soil preparation to the joy of harvesting season. If you have ever spent a summer gardening, you know that these tasks can serve as great exercise. More importantly, you can socialize and make new friends with other gardeners.
Gardening helps to improve memory, and cognitive abilities. In physical rehabilitation, horticultural therapy can help improve coordination, balance and endurance.
In addition to its therapeutic value, food gardening offers a safe source of fresh produce.
Let’s turn off the TVs for a couple hours, disconnect from our smart phones and experience the world in which we belong.
Go hiking or bird watching.
Sit in the middle of the forest and relax. Plant a garden!
Get reconnected and enjoy life to the fullest.