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Gardening Through Grief, Stress & Depression

By Bev Walker (SundownrJanuary 10, 2012
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Our lives are continuously barraged at times by stress from work, family matters, cost of living, illness, world events, along with the upkeep of a household and yard. When the death of a family member is tossed into the mix, it can trump everything else for a while. You may think that gardening at this time is more of a chore than a pleasure, but it can be your best cure for grief and stress which is often accompanied by, or the cause of some, depression.

Gardening picture

My father became ill this past spring, and there were endless trips to my hometown to help out, as well as hospital visits; health, financial, and legal concerns, and then later the funeral and estate matters. There will be issues to contend with for a while, but the major stress is over. I do not think I could have kept what is left of my sanity if it weren't for my trellis of green beans, the only thing I managed to plant before tragedy struck.

Those green beans grew to ridiculous proportions despite neglect. Sporadically tending them gave me time by myself to think and work out frustrations, mild exercise, sunshine, fresh air, and self-satisfaction. I could not have done much more than I did. My typical garden plantings would have wasted away and left me feeling more overwhelmed, grieved, and depressed.

I started walking two miles once a day with a neighbor throughout our rural area, as the weather permitted. That gave me more exercise, fresh air, sunshine, and helped me sleep better. Although the intent of walking was to become healthier physically, and the gardening was primarily for food and pleasure, I did not realize how emotionally important they were until later.


I ran across an article recently that discussed vitamin 'G' and its importance to our mental and physical health. It is a philosophy based on science that we need to be in contact with the elements of nature to be completely healthy. (The term has also been used to describe vitamin B2 or riboflavin.) [1]

I think of Vitamin 'G' as Grounding (touching the Earth), Geology, Gravity, Gardening, or Green Spaces. Science has proved that contact with Aristotle's four classic elements do help relieve or eliminate both mental and physical diseases.
Modified Earth SymbolWalking barefoot on the earth, and working the soil with our hands (gardening), imparts more than just a good feeling in our hearts. Science has proved that there is a beneficial bacterium (Mycobacterium vaccae) in the soil that helps activate serotonin in the brain. It can help reduce symptoms of several diseases and disorders, including depression. [2]
Modified Fire SymbolThe rays of the sun give our bodies more vitamin D than any supplement or food we could ingest, which helps with depression and insomnia, and a long list of other diseases. [3] [4]
Modified Air SymbolNot just any air, but clean fresh air, can breathe life back into our bodies and brains. A drive out of a smoggy city into the rural communities, a stroll in a plant-filled park, or a moderate hike through a wildlife sanctuary, can give one a sense of rejuvenation. This serves to elevate our mood and gives our body a bit more energy. [5]
Modified Water SymbolA bath, drinking plenty of water, and various forms of hydrotherapy, are all considered helpful, and possibly necessary, in relieving physical pain, stress, and depression. We all know that soaking in a warm tub can relax muscle tightness, thereby relieving some of our stress. It also hydrates and washes away toxins from our skin (excreted from our bodies). Drinking water also hydrates and flushes toxins from inside our bodies. Hydrotherapy is a timeless naturopathic method of healing a long list of ailments, including depression, with water in its many forms: liquid (cold or warm), steam, and ice. Health-related Internet sites are full of information about the benefits of water to the body.

EXERCISE: It is a well-known fact that physical activity helps lower stress. [6] [7] It makes sense that if exercise is done outdoors, the elements can work to repair and regenerate our bodies all at once.

KY Wonder green beans waiting to be picked from the arched trellis.Doctors in the UK and many other countries prescribe farm-type work as a cure for mental illnesses and recuperation from physical ailments. [8] Gardening combines all the classic elements plus exercise to help us stay mentally and physically healthy, most especially in times of stress with depressing circumstances. It gives us time to be alone with our thoughts if needed, to find perspective, to grieve our way, and the self-satisfaction needed by some to feel whole.

Please do consider gardening through grief!


This article is based on my personal experience and research and not meant to be medical advice for everyone. We each grieve in our own way and some of us have preexisting conditions that need special considerations during stressful times. I deliberately chose not to delve into the vast religious, spiritual, and philosophical support systems that many of us depend on in times of stress. Instead, I chose to bring attention to the simple, and often overlooked natural methods that may help you or someone you care about deal with the tragedies of life and of death.


Photo Credits:

All photographs and diagrams remain property of the author.
Click on green bean trellis photo (above) for the larger image.
Click here to view a larger image of the article's thumbnail photo.




FOOTNOTES:

[1] Jim Vaughn. Vitamin 'G'. New Geography. May 18, 2010.
[2] Catherine Paddock. Soil Bacteria Work In Similar way to Antidepressants. Medical News Today. Apr 2, 2007.
[3] Deborah Kotz. Time in the Sun: How Much is Needed for Vitamin D?. 2011 US News & World Report LP. Jun 23, 2008.
[4] Mike Adams. Vitamin D myths, facts, and statistics. Natural News. Jan 1, 2005.
[5] Get Some Fresh Air! New Link Between Smoggy Air & Depression. Daily Health & Fitness Blog. Jul 7, 2011.
[6] Mayo Clinic staff. Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms. Mayo Clinic. Oct 1, 2011.
[7] Kiera Aaron. The Drug-Free Depression Cure. Men's Health News. Aug 30, 2011.
[8] Doctors prescribe 'fresh air and farm work' for patients with depression. The Daily Mail Reporter: Health. Sept 10, 2010.


  About Bev Walker  
Bev WalkerI was a serious organic gardener and composter 30 years ago, then my life took me in a new direction with kids and career. I am just now returning to gardening and learning new techniques, and loving every minute of it. I hope to share my experiences with you from my shady yard.

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Discussion about this article:
SubjectTopic StarterRepliesViewsLast Post
Mother Earth's loving hands aulani61 3 16 Feb 6, 2012 6:19 AM
Wisdom from the garden FairyCreature 1 2 Jan 21, 2012 6:50 PM
So True eoasa 1 5 Jan 17, 2012 5:53 AM
Right on target! pdhickey 1 3 Jan 16, 2012 7:13 PM
In February 2011 FlaFlower 1 6 Jan 16, 2012 7:04 PM
It's a family thing jazzy1okc 1 7 Jan 16, 2012 1:55 PM
gardening through stress therapeuticgard 1 7 Jan 16, 2012 1:26 PM
This is so true! LeeInIowa 1 5 Jan 16, 2012 1:22 PM
Gardening was my comfort kbbade 1 9 Jan 16, 2012 12:59 PM
Closer To God... ilv2grdn 1 7 Jan 16, 2012 12:33 PM
Totally agree luv2wok 1 6 Jan 16, 2012 5:08 AM
gardening and grief dordee 1 10 Jan 16, 2012 5:01 AM
Gardening thru grief baileyweb 1 11 Jan 16, 2012 4:19 AM
Very nice, thank you NY2CA 4 26 Jan 10, 2012 7:27 PM
Respite... Gymgirl 2 18 Jan 10, 2012 2:23 PM
Catharsis HelloMissMary 1 21 Jan 10, 2012 8:08 AM
Garden spirits gloria125 1 17 Jan 10, 2012 7:48 AM
Lovely article ... and so true Cville_Gardener 1 18 Jan 10, 2012 5:09 AM
Great Article DEMinPA 1 14 Jan 10, 2012 5:04 AM
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