Wellness is more than just how many miles you walk on a treadmill. That’s why we love the concept of holistic wellness, which focuses on several different factors to determine well-being and prizes none higher than the other. After all, humans are nuanced and multi-faceted–the actions we take to feel our best should be, too.
Holistic wellness focuses on five different kinds of health: physical, mental, environmental, spiritual, and intellectual. One action we can take to benefit all areas of holistic wellness? Getting in the garden.
Believe it or not, gardening has the ability to improve our health in a variety of areas. From getting an extra kick of cardio or an extra hit of serotonin, to feeling more peacefulness and connectedness, here’s how gardening can fit into each part of your holistic wellness routine.
What is holistic wellness?
Health and well-being are often thought to be black and white–you’re healthy or you aren’t. The holistic approach instead centers on quality of life, considering the many factors that make up an individual’s lived experience. It allows practitioners to gain an understanding on how their physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental health synchronize, both in harmony and in distress. Instead of simply treating problems as they arise, holistic wellness encourages individuals to consider how each part of his or her body is consistently working together for a healthy life.
For decades, Western thought around healthcare has been flawed. Our society has focused on short-term solutions to long-term health issues, emphasizing a fast-moving, sometimes high-risk lifestyle that overlooks the whole person for the sake of an easy fix. More recently, the sentiments around these practices have changed as mindfulness, meditation, chiropractic care, and other slow-paced holistic practices have been shown to have major health benefits, especially in dealing with chronic disease.
For more information about the practice, read our Complete Guide to Holistic Wellness.
Gardening for Physical Health
Physical health is the category we most often consider the end-all, be-all to health. It relates directly to your body and physiology and is most often determined through a medical lens: your bloodwork, your existing conditions, your exercise routines. Most often, physical health is denoted in measurable and tangible ways, such as blood pressure, VO2 Max, or how much you can lift at the gym.
While it may seem as though gardening couldn’t possibly benefit physical health, the fact of the matter is that there is plenty you can do to get your heart rate up. Set up your garden at different levels so that you have to squat to reach parts of it and stretch to reach others. Practice heavy lifting with potted plants and bags of soil. Spread your plots far apart so that you are getting a good amount of steps each time you tend to your plants. You’d be surprised at just how physical your daily growing routine can be.
Gardening for Mental Health
Mental health is a vital part of overall wellness, though often overlooked by traditional medical practices. Practitioners measure mental health in less tangible factors than they do physical health, looking at markers such as stress, happiness, sadness, and emotional response. Recently, more and more studies have shown that not only is it good to focus on mental health for mental health’s sake, but that there are also crucial ties between emotional wellness and physical performance.
Science has also shown that gardening and mental wellness are inexorably linked. More than just the boost of confidence you get when you experience an “I Grew That” moment, gardening has been clinically shown to transform brain connectivity, decreasing anxiety and depression and building up overall resilience.
To learn more about how gardening can transform your mental health, read our interview with renowned depression researcher Dr. Madhukar Trevedi.
Gardening for Environmental Health
Financial health, occupational wellness, the deep connections between family and community, the safety of your surroundings-these can all be indicators of environmental health. And all of these areas can be improved by spending time in the garden.
Growing together builds tight bonds within communities, whether they be at work, with strangers or among lifelong friends. Starting a garden with others or sharing the bounty of your harvest with those around you can help create and strengthen interhuman connections. Additionally, and perhaps obviously, gardening vastly improves the space around you, both aesthetically and molecularly. Home gardens improve the quality of the air around them in addition to brightening up balconies, patios, and backyards and, in turn, can improve your environmental wellness as well.
Gardening for Spiritual Health
Those who are spiritually healthy have peace, balance, and fulfillment in life. This branch of wellness looks at what it means to lead a purposeful life and can also focus on different dimensions or capacities of human existence.
While some may think that spiritual health can come only through organized religion, indeed, pockets of peace exist all around us. Gardens are places of growth, contemplation, of connection to the earth and life itself. If you find yourself looking for spirituality, try spending a few quiet moments each morning tending to your garden. Breath in the air around you, touch the soil and new growth with your fingertips. Thank the universe for the life it has provided, both in your garden and for yourself. Then find a quiet corner, journal about how your garden makes you feel and the many things for which you are grateful. You’ll marvel at the peace you are able to find.
Gardening for Intellectual Health
The common belief is that we no longer participate in “traditional” learning after we graduate from school. However, in holistic wellness practices, this is emphatically untrue. It turns out that life-long learning, known as intellectual health, is a vital component of overall well-being.
If you find yourself hesitant to read non-fiction or pick up a crossword puzzle, try changing up your intellectual health routine. Instead, dive into the tangible practice of gardening, where there is always something to be learned and explored. Read up on native plants to your area, measure the light levels of your backyard or try your hand at growing something exotic and different. If you’re thrilled by a challenge, there is plenty of growth to be had (pun intended!) in the garden.
How do you find your holistic wellness improved by gardening?