Gardening as a coping mechanism

I've been on a bit of a mental health roller coaster this last week, and then in the middle of the week I caught a bit of a flu that's been going around and that did not help my mental state at all.

I've had about 3 moments this week where I was able to get out of my own head and stop the thought processes for awhile. All of those moments involved plants. I've transplanted or potted up my house plants that I started from cuttings, my pampas grass seedlings, and the lemon cucumber seedlings.

In each of those potting sessions I was able to zone in on the repetitive process:

  • scoop fresh dirt into the new pot

  • pack it down

  • remove the plant from its old container

  • position it in the new one

  • add dirt

  • pack it down

  • add more dirt

  • pack it down

  • water it

  • start on the next one

Those were the few moments of contentment this week. Where nothing else mattered and my head wasn't full of destructive thoughts.

I don't know what it is about gardening that is therapeutic, but it's not just an urban legend. Scientists around the world are actually studying this topic now, how gardening can have a positive impact on mental health.

On a personal level, I like the visible progress I get. I can count how many plants I've potted up (25 Pampas Grass). I can feel the dirt packing down into the pot under my fingers, filling it up. I can see the difference between a weeded patch of earth and an unweeded patch.

A few months back I jokingly made a mock-up book cover with my name and photo on it as the author. I titled it Compassionate Gardening and hung it on my wall.

That title tumbles around in my brain a lot. At first, I thought it was a weird title. But the longer its there the more I feel like it's about gardening as compassion for self. Because when I'm having a shit week probably the most compassionate thing I can do is give myself a few moments of sinking my fingers into the dirt, zoning out and forgetting about all the depressive and anxious thoughts in my head for a little while.