Spending time in the garden is usually an enjoyable and calming activity, especially if the weather is on your side. It’s one of those places where you can enjoy the fruits of your labour year-round too and especially in the summer when the nights are longer and far warmer. On the other hand, meditation has numerous, science-tested benefits[i] including reduction of stress and anxiety, lengthening your attention span, and helping fight addictions. So is it possible to combine the two? The concept of meditative gardening has been around for a few years. While some people may be sceptical, others agree that the activity can be relaxing and enlightening.
Today we’ll be taking a look at meditation, gardening, the concept of combining the two and how it might benefit your mind and body. In this guide, we explore: –
Meditative gardening is the art of practising meditation whilst doing your usual gardening activities. As meditation itself has an extensive description and can mean many things to many people, the definition of meditative gardening has some room for interpretation.
Gardens are known to be quite serene places. Being in your garden completing tasks and connecting with the earth through this, you’re more likely to develop a closer connection to nature, which in itself feels meditative.
When we’re out in nature we’re usually calmer, more grounded and have time to process our thoughts and feelings in a quiet space uninterrupted. Through gardening, we learn more about how the seeds of all life are sown and how everything must be cared for accordingly during each stage of life to ensure the best outcome. The understanding we develop here is very meditative because over time you can naturally develop a newfound appreciation for your surroundings, the people in your life and the nurturing they require to live to their full potential.
Gardening can essentially become a flow state, which is defined by headspace as
“the sense of fluidity between your body and mind, where you are totally absorbed by and deeply focused on something, beyond the point of distraction”[ii]
Mindful gardening is similar to meditative gardening; however, it’s more of a stepping stone towards meditative gardening. Being outside will inherently cause you to slow down so you’ll concentrate on the small things you are seeing, feeling, and hearing during your gardening.
Mindfulness gardening can be quite simple when you follow the steps mentioned below. According to a study by the University of Essex on nature and ‘green exercise’[iii], it’ll allow you to take a step back and appreciate your surroundings more so than you may usually do, overall improving your mood and self-esteem.
Some top tips for practising mindfulness gardening are:
So what are the benefits of meditative gardening? We’ve touched upon many of them briefly throughout this post, but there are numerous benefits specifically for the mind. A 2006 study found that gardening could help lower your risk of dementia by over a third[iv]. not to mention the general health benefits of meditation, including better focus, concentration, improved self-esteem, and managing anxiety & depression[v].
Being in the multi-sensory nature of the outdoors will allow you to appreciate everything in nature that’s going on around you; whether that’s birds singing, grass growing, or flowers budding. Being mindful of the sensations you feel whilst you have your hands in the earth is, in general, a calming and peaceful sensation which will make you feel more relaxed. It can almost be used as some form of therapy if you’ve had a particularly bad day.
You’re also sure to see several physical benefits too as just being outside can reduce inflammation, fatigue and even lower blood pressure[vi].
First and foremost, it’s exercise. Even though it’s a relaxing activity, you’re still getting out, moving your body, walking around a lot and probably doing a fair amount of digging.
If you have a reasonably sized garden, you could be out there for large chunks of time without even realizing what sort of workout you’re putting in. A study conducted by Harvard reported that 30-minutes of gardening could burn just as many if not more calories than some sports activities like water aerobics, yoga, and horse riding[vii].
If you’re new to gardening, there’ll be many new skills that you’ll need to learn such as when to start sowing certain seeds and which plants, flowers and vegetables need to be kept in a greenhouse to ensure a good harvest. All of this will improve your cognitive function and even your problem-solving skills if something doesn’t quite go to plan.
Our minds are said to process over 2500 thoughts per hour[viii]. That takes a lot of brainpower. Imagine the break it could get if we just took five minutes out of the day to clear our thoughts. Here are some great ideas for other forms of meditation in and around the home.
Moving (or walking) meditation is the art of meditation whilst on the go.
It can be done at anytime really and rather than focusing on things like your breath, you instead draw on things like your feet and how they feel with each step you take. You can do it whilst you’re walking around the house, are out in the garden, or even on a daily/weekly walk outside.
The trick to getting started with this is to really slow things right down so you can concentrate on the movement as you’re doing it. It may feel a little silly at first but will come as second nature once you get used to the sensations and are walking at a normal speed again.
All that gardening will have helped build a tranquil space where you can practice your mindful meditation – known to many as a meditation garden. You can meditate in your whole garden or even have a set area specifically for your meditation practice. Garden meditation is an excellent exercise for the mind and is enhanced by your surroundings. Running water features create a serene environment and meditation plants like sweet perennials can act like nature’s aromatherapy machine.
Sitting on the grass is great as it helps bring you closer to nature. However, if you don’t want to do that, just be sure to have a small bench for you to relax on. Lutyens benches have a perfect design for this purpose and can create quite the centrepiece for your meditation area.
Gardening is a lot of fun, and, once you get into it, meditation can be too. It’s a great exercise for the body and mind, and as soon as you’re in the habit of practising meditation and gardening simultaneously, you’ll be reaping the benefits.
Are you ready to give meditative gardening a try?
Thorpe, M. (2020) 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation. [online] Available at https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation [Accessed 19th January 2021]
Loria, K. (2018) Being outside can improve memory, fight depression, and lower blood pressure – here are 12 science-backed reasons to spend more time outdoors. [online] Available at https://www.businessinsider.com/why-spending-more-time-outside-is-healthy-2017-7?r=US&IR=T#spending-time-outside-reduces-inflammation-3 [accessed 19th January 2021]
Headspace (n.d.) What is flow state and what are its benefits? [online] Available at https://www.headspace.com/articles/flow-state [accessed 21st January 2021]
Barton, J. and Pretty, J. (2010) What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis [online] Available at https://texanbynature.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/What-is-the-Best-Dose-of-Nature-and-Gre…-Mental-Health-A-Multi-Study-Analysis.pdf [Accessed 21st January 2021]
Sasson, R. (n.d.) How Many Thoughts Does Your Mind Think in One Hour? [online] Available at https://www.successconsciousness.com/blog/inner-peace/how-many-thoughts-does-your-mind-think-in-one-hour/#:~:text=Experts%20estimate%20that%20the%20mind,about%202100%20thoughts%20per%20hour. [Accessed 21st January 2021]
Harvard Health (2018) Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights [online] Available at https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-of-leisure-and-routine-activities [Accessed 21st January 2021]
Simons, Leon A. et al. (2006) Lifestyle factors and risk of dementia: Dubbo Study of the elderly [online] Available at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16411871/ [Accessed 21st January 2021]
Heger, E. (2020) 7 benefits of meditation, and how it can affect your brain [online] Available at https://www.insider.com/benefits-of-meditation#:~:text=The%20mental%20health%20benefits%20of,and%20help%20fight%20substance%20addiction. [Accessed 21st January 2021]
Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches – a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.