For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is upon us. For me, that means gardening. In truth, it's a new thing for me. After university I traveled for years, never having a place of my own to plant a garden. Then I settled into residence in and around Vancouver, where it's an almost impossibility to afford anything other than a shoebox to live in. Needless to say, shoeboxes generally don't come with an extensive amount of green space.
But now I am lucky enough to have a yard - a big one, with beds for annuals and vegetables and fairy furniture. Especially for fairy furniture.
Gardening is a complex art that one could spend years learning, indulging in, perfecting. But it's also an incredible outlet for the inexperienced to enjoy, as well. All you really need to get something out of it is dirt, seed, and sunshine (a little water helps, too).
And the benefits are plentiful, like my apricot tree in early July. Here's just a few to take note of:
Sunshine: When we garden, we are exposed to sunlight. Though science is still trying to work out how exactly sunlight effects our moods, there is proof that the sun's rays are beneficial. According to ScienceBlog, sunlight both decreases the production of melatonin and increases serotonin, boosting our vitamin D and giving us a significant lift in mood.
Dirt: David Suzuki's latest post on his 30x30 Nature Challenge tells us that the bacteria found in soil, known as Mycobacterium vaccae, works as a natural anti-depressant, and can even help our brains to learn and develop.
Earth: There is something primal about getting our hands into the earth, working with the elements to nurture and grow, and breathing in the scent of vegetation and fresh air. We become more connected to our surroundings, and this type of meditative activity is essential for slowing us down and reminding us of who we are and what we're made of.
Movement: For the bootcamp enthusiasts and marathon runners among us, gardening may not seem like exercise, but it does wonders for the body. Digging, planting, hoeing, squatting - these movements keep us limber and strong, and if done properly (watch bending on that back), can work like yoga for circulation, stretching and strengthening.
Need an uplift? Get out and get your hands dirty. Just remember to bend at the knees and wear a little sunblock.