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Improving Mental Health Through Gardening: Easy Tips and Tricks

Learn some tips and tricks on gardening plus how it can improve your mental health with Making Waves owner, Kara Tolman!

A woman tending to plants on a balcony
Making Waves Counseling and Wellness Owner, Kara Tolman

My name is Kara and yup, that is me!

It is officially summer time and you may be feeling the urge to walk around your local nursery or spend time tending to plants. I, for one, am all about this! Being in nature can be grounding and so serene, so why not garden so you can connect with nature better.

Gardening does not have to be daunting or scary but super easy. Grab a raised garden bed, some soil and lets plant!

Tip #1 - Native Plants

Learning what to plant is usually the hardest task and I always have been told to look around your town to what is growing natively. This will give you the best idea on what plants can handle the type of soil where you live. I always recommend a local nursery who knows what is native to your area or your local arboretum for questions. While walking your local nurseries or local trails looking for plants to possibly use in your own yard, you can take this time to connect with nature through mindfulness.

Take a few minutes or moments to slow down and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I smelling?

  • What am I seeing?

  • Do I feel any sensations in my body?

  • Any thoughts coming to mind?

Recommendation: Stop and smell the roses

Tip #2 - Intentional Gardening Increases Happiness

When establishing a beautiful serene garden, take your time in deciding what fills your soul. Recently, I was planting in my yard and someone asked me, "What plant did you go with and how will it give back to you?". My answer was simple, "The plant I chose will naturally attract pollinators and it makes me happy."

When establishing your garden, it should increase your overall happiness. We know through research that we are in control of 40% of our happiness just through intentional activities alone. That really is a lot! Intentional gardening such as:

  • Spending time researching plants, flowers, or vegetables

  • Spending time in your yard or in nature daily

  • Disconnecting from your phone to tend to your garden (Pulling weeds, fertilizing, watering, etc.)

  • Diagnosing disease and trouble shooting issues

  • Going to your favorite nursery or farm to buy

  • Propagating your own plants

  • Increased vitamin D levels that you naturally receive from the sun

  • Improved sleeping patterns since the sun helps with regulating our circadian rhythm

"I like gardening – it's a place where I find myself when I need to lose myself"– Alice Sebold
A picture of drift roses

Tip #3 - Plants attract wildlife to your yard

Plants are a great way to attract wildlife to your yard which also adds to some mindfulness activities. Imagine, you are sitting on your porch, surrounded by plants and you hear a cardinal in the distance eating dinner while perched on your bird feeder. What sort of sounds do you notice?

Add an inexpensive water feature to allow fresh flowing water and help attract nature as well!

Making Waves Counseling and Wellness also attracts it's own wildlife to our balcony!

By adding some spring flowers and a dish of water with low sides, we have attracted Squirrels as well as Cardinals. We are very grateful for the sights and sounds they provide us during client sessions or during breaks. Being intentional while gardening is what can make it so peaceful for our souls, minds and bodies. With every tree or flower we plant, we give back to the earth.

"In his garden, every man may be his own artist without apology or explanation"- Louise Beebe Wilder


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