Growing Zen

When I was younger, the best part of summer was being outside in the fresh air. As I’ve grown older and acquired more responsibility, I’ve begun to equate summer with time off and time off with getting as much rest as possible. And rest, to me, was sleeping and watching television, because I didn’t have time for either when busy.

What I didn’t realize was that, while watching movies and funny YouTube videos on the computer as much as possible may have felt like resting, such things were not actually refreshing me and healing my mind from the stress it had endured.

Watching too much television can increase stress and actually harm the brain and body through over-stimulation and addiction to sedentary behavior. We tend to get “attention fatigue” through our constant monitoring of the media and messages we receive on cell phones and computers. This is reversible if we engage in activities that require “involuntary attention,” which would include healthy, repetitive, soothing tasks.

What I thought was helping me relax may have actually done the opposite. Another place of zen, more peaceful and healthy than in front of the TV, is the garden. Working in the garden is exactly what we need to reverse attention fatigue and is overall highly relaxing. So, I propose that this summer, we utilize nature to help us heal our overly-worn minds.

When you garden you are being active outside in the fresh air, where you can reconnect with nature and the earth. If you grow vegetables, you also have a great excuse to eat healthier. What’s more rewarding than growing your own food?

According to this article, there are a lot of ways to make gardening a fulfilling and stress-free experience. One of the main ways is to ensure that you don’t think of gardening as a chore. Looking at the experience through only a positive lens is important if it is going to help relieve stress instead of increase it.

That is my main issue with gardening. When I think of the garden I still hear my mother asking me to go weed or to help spread mulch, two things that were so totally unfair when there were a million other things I could be doing on a gorgeous summer day.

It is also important to remember to be highly aware of the nature around you and take in the fresh air. The beauty of gardening stems (haha) from the ability to connect with nature. Put away the technology, breathe deeply and enjoy the smell of the flowers and the grass, listen to the sound of the wind rustling the leaves in the trees, and enjoy cultivating your own masterpiece in your garden.

If you don’t have a space to garden where you live, there are also community gardens, which are a great place to also meet other people and, obviously, engage more in your community. Community gardens are growing in popularity around the country and, very likely, there is one in your neck of the woods if you are so inclined to find one.

Locally, we have the Purdue Village Gardents and a community garden on the North Tenth Street of Lafayette, Indiana. More information on community gardens in Tippecanoe County can be found here.



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