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.) 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. Walking 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.  The 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.   Not 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.  A 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.   It makes sense that if exercise is done outdoors, the elements can work to repair and regenerate our bodies all at once.
Doctors in the UK and many other countries prescribe farm-type work as a cure for mental illnesses and recuperation from physical ailments.  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.
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Click on green bean trellis photo (above) for the larger image.
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- Other Dave's Garden articles you may find helpful:
- Cathy Wallace, Life filled With Stress? Find Peace in the Garden
- Tina Bolin, Creating Your Zen Zone
- Mitch Fitzgerald, Building a Memorial Garden
- Bev Walker, Use cattle panels to build an arched trellis & hoop house
 Jim Vaughn. Vitamin 'G'. New Geography. May 18, 2010.
 Catherine Paddock. Soil Bacteria Work In Similar way to Antidepressants. Medical News Today. Apr 2, 2007.
 Deborah Kotz. Time in the Sun: How Much is Needed for Vitamin D?. 2011 US News & World Report LP. Jun 23, 2008.
 Mike Adams. Vitamin D myths, facts, and statistics. Natural News. Jan 1, 2005.
 Get Some Fresh Air! New Link Between Smoggy Air & Depression. Daily Health & Fitness Blog. Jul 7, 2011.
 Mayo Clinic staff. Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms. Mayo Clinic. Oct 1, 2011.
 Kiera Aaron. The Drug-Free Depression Cure. Men's Health News. Aug 30, 2011.
 Doctors prescribe 'fresh air and farm work' for patients with depression. The Daily Mail Reporter: Health. Sept 10, 2010.