“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.”Alfred Austin
The above phrase says it all for what I am about to write..
I recently finished my working life. Back in 2012, the company that employed me for 30 years had been taken over by a larger organisation. My former employer overall was a happy environment to work, but everything was about to change. The new organisation’s culture was a whole lot different. It was toxic. The values were on making money and not on a good people culture. There was a considerable lack of respect for people; there was colossal arrogance built into the organisation. One of the most valuable appreciated skills that I could see in the organisation was the ability to poison an individual to damage their ability to function. I could see also that nothing was going to change anytime soon. There was a lack of desire from top management to bring about any positive cultural change. Senior management was happy with the behaviour.
Corporate life brings out the worst in people, and I wanted nothing to do with it. The working environment did nothing for my health or physical activity levels; I was used to more active working day than being confined to a desk. I also hated being closeted in an air-conditioned building. So, I took the giant leap to get out of the environment, knowing that I would probably never get another job, again based on that particular industry practices.
It is now six months down the track, and do I regret resigning – hell no. The blood pressure is down, and I have lost weight. My weight was one thing that I was concerned about at work, so having lost over 6kg in weight, I am happy. I also have a goal to lose more weight. The reason for the lost weight is getting outside into the garden and being more active. Recently I went to the doctor for a check-up. My blood pressure and weight had improved to proper levels. My doctor, impressed by the situation, asked if I had been exercising, “no” came the reply, “just out in the garden, doing garden activities.”
Most Health Professionals recognise that regular contact with plants, animals and the natural environment can improve our physical health and mental well-being. When engaging with nature, it is not a forced situation, as the work environment. For people with mental or physical challenges, the benefits can be enormous and relieve symptoms, even for a small-time.
Just being outside benefits include increased physical activity. For me, it was walking around the garden, burning calories, rather than sitting at my corporate desk at 9 am, with minimal physical activity or movement for the rest of the day. Nowadays, I am outside in the garden with planned gardening activities. I may not get all the activities done on the day. Still, I will be out the following morning continuing on the activities, thereby burning more calories. When I was in the office, I used to have a regular morning tea break. And now, when I am in the garden, I forget about the time until my stomach sends signals to me that I need sustenance. It has also been shown in studies, that 2 to 3 hours in the garden is equal to 1-hour workout at the gym. Tasks such as mowing the lawn, weeding and digging, stimulate different muscle groups so that gardening can become just as beneficial as jogging or swimming. For me, I do not have to motivate myself to get into the garden or go outside. However, to go to the swimming pool or gym, that requires a new motivation session and regimentation.
Being in the garden has excellent benefits and challenges of growing plants, vegetables and fruit. It is incredible what can be grown and the amount that one vegetable plant or fruit tree can produce. I have had a fantastic array of vegetable and fruit this year. I have now had to start learning new skills. Skills that I never thought that I would learn like how to preserve or make different food products for consumption. Anything leftover being given away to others in the neighbourhood. Neighbourhood interactions lead to the benefit of better mental health by interacting with people from the local community, just the social interaction with other people can reduce stress and depression. Also, the learning and education of understanding something new can take a person on a whole new journey of learning and eating home produced garden food. I have always been a consumer of fruit and vegetables, making sure that I have 5+ a day. I would also hope by giving the fruit and vegetable away that people are also taking on healthy eating activities.
Getting outside into your garden or allotment, being exposed to natural bacteria is shown to improve the human immune system. Meaning reduced chances of catching common infections and diseases, including the common cold and flu.
Any outdoor activity has both excellent benefits and its negatives too. So, don’t forget about all the precautions against the weather elements like the sun or cold. Apply suntan lotion or wear clothes to suit the outside elements in your environment as we do not want all the positives of a new healthy lifestyle turning negative. Get outside regularly building up a new regimentation for yourself, interacting with nature and the greenery you have, I’m sure you will love it.