COVID-19, also casually known as the coronavirus, has brought the world to a standstill. Many countries have not only enforced strict regulations for air travel but have also advised their citizens to stay inside to flatten the curve. Though not all local governments are mandating social isolating, many are staying at home to protect those who are elderly or immunocompromised from the coronavirus outbreak. While some individuals have managed to shift to remote work, others have either been furloughed, laid off, or are still working in providing essential services.
It is a frustrating and stressful time, especially for those who have been laid off and are now stuck at home. To make matters worse, social isolation means you can’t visit friends or see family members who are at risk for the time being. In these strange and trying times, what can one do to avoid cabin fever and to stay healthy?
One activity that can be therapeutic and help with keeping you occupied during isolation is gardening. While many estimate that the effects of COVID-19 will become less severe with the onset of spring, warmer weather also brings spring gardening,. Even the most amateur green thumb can bring beautiful blooms to their backyard! You don’t need to have a ton of gardening experience to enjoy the bounties of nature.
Regardless if you have a backyard or only a balcony, you can garden just about anywhere.
Why Garden During Isolation?
Cultivating for your mental health is excellent therapy! Frankly, everyone has different reasons for gardening from self-sustainability to beautification and serenity. It is also therapeutic especially in these unpredictable times of self-isolation. There is great satisfaction in raising herbs, flowers, and vegetables on your own and its fantastic for the whole family to get outdoors even for people with disabilities. Now is a perfect time to get started and learn if you haven’t done it before and there is still time left to get the perfect spring garden.
Here Is Our List Of The Top Five Benefits To Gardening During Social Isolation For Mental Health Needs
1. Provides Positive Benefits for Your Overall Health
Gardening has direct benefits for your overall health. Due to its calming nature, gardeners have reported lower blood pressure as well as stress reduction. While we will go deeper into the benefits for mental health in a later section, gardening is an outlet that provides space for your body and mind to replenish its energy.
2. Maintain Productivity
It is important to remain productive in quarantine. While some may chalk it up to living in a high-paced society, even on social media feeds, you can see people posting about their latest hobbies or projects in quarantine. Sometimes it may feel like you’re not doing enough or that you’re wasting your time by only binging Tiger King on Netflix or scrolling through Facebook.
What makes gardening attractive in terms of feeling productive is that gardening puts you in control. You get to decide how large of a gardening project you want. No matter the size of the project, raising and watching a plant grow to full maturity is always satisfying. Gardening also allows for multiple project ideas. How you manage them is up to you, at the end of the day, but there’s something for everyone.
Productivity appears in many different shapes and forms. Being able to feel productive during our current times will help people cope with social isolation.
3. Allows for Exercise And Fresh Air
While you can technically exercise indoors, it is more difficult to have a large garden without going outdoors. Even if all you’re doing is preparing seeds at home or in a greenhouse, being surrounded by greenery is good for the body and soul.
Gardening might not be as intense as an aerobic workout, but it will force you to be active in the yard. Even if you don’t have a yard, and only have a balcony or porch, gardening gives you a good excuse to get some fresh air while maintaining social distancing.
4. Involve the Family
Although many are now being couch potatoes, kids don’t have to be glued to a screen or on the smart devices all day. Planting is a perfect opportunity to take kids away from the screen. Even if you don’t have kids, you can also involve other family members who want to be engaged despite social isolation.
Gardens provide more than fresh seasonal vegetables or beautiful flowers for your foyer. They are our home’s connection to the natural world, and it’s important for maintaining your connection with nature. To provide stimulation, you can guide family members through the process of gardening or supply your kids with journals to document the plants and bugs they encounter in the yard.
Even if you are not actively gardening with your family, the backyard is a great place to socialize. Whether it’s enjoying some tea beneath the sun or playing a game of badminton, the possibilities are endless!
Gardening isn’t only an activity which supports your mental and emotional health, but a way to foster deeper connections with family members.
5. Support Your Local Ecosystem
While we may think that our gardens are simply attached spaces of greenery or nature to our house, gardens play an important role as part of the local ecosystem. Gardens provide spaces for local wildlife to shelter, for local pollinators to feed, and for native plants to thrive. It’s important to research the plants and animals local to your area and to think of ways to support them.
By providing resources and support for local wildlife, you are giving a helping hand to the environment.
What are the mental health benefits of gardening?
Gardening is an activity beneficial to mental health. Just like physical health, mental health issues are important to confront and tackle. Though gardening can’t act as the only solution for a mental health problem, it has certain advantages that will help your overall state of mind. Here are the top benefits anyone can receive by gardening:
1. Lower Anxiety and Stress
Many gardeners can agree that gardening is a soothing activity. Gardening plays a role in anxiety and stress reduction. In one study in Japan, participants exposed to greenery had lower blood pressure, less muscle tension, and a calmer heart rate. You can also determine your own pace while gardening. When it comes to how much work you want to do, gardening is very flexible. This flexibility is no doubt useful for those who struggle with mental health and may prefer an activity that allows for breaks and easy pacing.
By being able to choose your own pace and workload, it’s easy to see why gardening is highly suggested to support mental health.
2. Boost Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is an important part of every human being. It helps us nurture our sense of individuality as well as our confidence, but low self-esteem can be damaging for our mental health. Low self-esteem also contributes to specific mental health conditions such as depression.
You may be wondering: how does raising plants boost my self-esteem? Gardening can give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Even if the plant you’re raising has just sprouted, seeing the visible results of your effort is rewarding. Regardless if you decide to turn a whole yard into a lush oasis or simply want to care for a houseplant in your apartment, gardening is a way to boost anyone’s self-esteem in anyone’s situation.
3. Providing a Growth Mindset
It’s completely understandable to be frustrated with the COVID-19 situation or even a past mistake unrelated to this pandemic. However, it’s important to also move on and to divert your mind elsewhere. While we’re not trying to invalidate how you feel right now, time does continue to flow, regardless of how one feels. Growth is important for our wellbeing, whether it’s feeling a sense of purpose in life or a sense that you’re moving towards a certain direction. Gardening is a useful tool that can help us.
Besides providing a way for us to divert our worries and energy, gardening shows us that we can grow and learn from our mistakes. Just as you nurture your gardens and plants, you may find that you start to treat yourself just a bit more tenderly as well. Mistakes are inevitable, especially for activities that are new to a person. Even veteran gardeners may make simple mistakes from time-to-time, and these mistakes simply become part of the learning process. In approaching our mental health, gardening provides multiple life lessons that can be taken to heart.
4. Moving Beyond Perfectionism
While perfectionism isn’t necessarily a direct link to mental health problems per se, perfectionism can lead to us being harder on ourselves than necessary. A large part of perfectionism is control rather than the actual idea of perfection. For some perfectionists, losing control leads to frustration and discontent.
However, when it comes to gardening and observing the natural world, it is evident that we are not as in control as we think we are. From certain bugs suddenly invading the garden to a plant unexpectedly wilting, unpredictable events can and does happen. Nature simply shows that this is natural, and what matters most is acceptance and moving on.
How to Manage Being Isolated by Gardening
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of gardening during social isolation and for mental health, we’re going to provide a few ideas to jumpstart your gardening activities. Depending on the amount of space available in your home, some gardening ideas may be easier to accomplish than others. We hope through this list you can incorporate gardening into your daily routine and reap its benefits.
1. Organize and Freshen Up the Yard
Don’t have time to prepare seed starters or to get your hands dirty in the soil? Sometimes just taking a few minutes to freshen up the yard or balcony can brighten your day! Especially after winter, wind and storms may have left some damage behind and some debris scattered to be cleaned up after.
Taking time to examine your backyard or terrace allows you to be outside and to figure out what supplies you need to get growing again. If you have a shed or at least tools, take this time to also check them out. Dispose of any broken tools and take time to do some spring cleaning this is also a great opportunity to organize your surroundings.
2. Diversify Your Plants
Adding new flowers or plants can spice up your backyard or balcony and be a fun project to embark on. However, be very picky about which plants to add and which plants to remove.
Seasonal flowers are always a welcome sight and beautiful, but be sure to do ample research. Some plants are annuals, meaning they bloom and stay alive for only one season. Some plants are also perennials, meaning they stay alive for more than two years but only bloom during specific seasons. Depending on your region, the type of plants native and friendly to the area will differ.
Don’t only focus on flowers too—consider incorporating shrubs and trees. Think about the height and amount of space certain plants take up and the amount of shade and sunlight you get. Diversifying the blooms you choose provides texture to your landscape.
3. Start a Herb Garden
Herbs such as sweet basil, savory chives, classic thyme, and fresh cilantro are wonderful as well as aromatic and a great addition to your culinary skills. Many heirloom herbs are easy to grow, making a herb garden a great project for beginning gardeners. You can even grow some varieties in a kitchen window which is great for those who have limited gardening space.
When starting with herbs make sure to research thoroughly the variety you want to grow. For example, if you plan on making mojitos, not all mint plants are made equal. You also want to consider the plants growing needs such as climate and conditions. Some herbs such as basil are extremely easy to raise while other herbs such as mint are considered aggressive growers and can easily take over.
4. Manage a Community Garden
A neighborhood garden which is typically an urban setting is a space where plots of land are divided up for private use. It’s an excellent way to bring the neighborhood together and teach children about nature. Your local community can benefit from the herbs, vegetables, and fruit trees planted. It’s a great way to offer a space of solidarity, nature, and well-being for mental health, especially in dense urban areas.
If you wish to start a local garden during the coronavirus outbreak, we recommend alternating shifts for the garden and following social distancing rules. Be sure to prepare proper materials such as gloves for safety, and to keep at least six feet of distance from others.
5. Keep Our Buzzy and Feathery Friends Around
Pollinators play an important role in our gardens and for our survival. From keeping our flowers blooming to helping orchard farmers, without pollinators, we would not have products such as honey, apples, and almonds. While you don’t have to be an orchard owner to help our native pollinators, such as bees, providing an area with food and shelter is plentiful support.
If you wish to support your local bee populations, think about raising colorful plants or flowers with high nectar yields. The planet will thank you for it. And most definitely consider going pesticide-free there is a ton of options available which I have covered in one of my previous posts titled ” The Ultimate Guide To Chemical Free Gardening” if you would like some more in-depth information on the subject. Pollinators, after all, don’t include only just bees. Butterflies, flies, beetles, and even a few bird species are also pollinators.
Don’t forget the birds, consider setting up a DIY birdbath or birdhouse to provide water and shelter as well.
6. Build a Bee House
For those who are feeling extra creative and want to go the extra step to support our fuzzy pollinators, try building a bee house. Some native bee species, such as mason bees, don’t require a hive. These bee species tend to live independently of one another, however, their nests are close to one another for mating purposes.
You can make a mason bee house by simply gluing together a bunch of reeds or drilling holes into a wooden log. Depending on the type of material used for the bee house, you may need to regularly maintain it or do extra maintenance during the winter. Creating a DIY bee house allows you to both create something from scratch and support local native bee populations.
7. Landscape and Include Seats
You don’t have to be a master architect or designer to create a relaxing space. Building fences, constructing paths, installing ornamental features such as fountains, and coordinating pavement are just a few things you can do to landscape your backyard. Your imagination is essentially the limit when it comes to making the dream garden.
Don’t forget that gardens also serve as a social space as well. While we’re not recommending holding BBQs or large family gatherings right now, it doesn’t hurt to manage your current garden and think how space can be used in the future. Make sure not to skimp out on seating and shade as well. Even if you don’t have guests or relatives over, you can use the space for your personal enjoyment and relaxation. Take your time and design a garden that helps you keep active, provides fresh blooms, and supports your mental health goals.
Especially in our current times, our physical, emotional, and mental health are at the forefront of our minds. For many individuals, the events regarding the coronavirus outbreak are unprecedented. Finding a way to stay productive and to divert our energy may seem hard at home, but gardening is just one of the many outlets that can help us. When it comes to mental health, gardening provides multiple therapeutic benefits and can help us keep active while obeying social distancing guidelines.