Outside: Where I found inner peace
As summer turns to fall and many of us head back outside, I’m reminded why it's good for our bodies and minds. The benefits of being outside are no secret. If you were to do a quick google search, you would easily find that there are many, MANY benefits to gardening. Now almost six months after leaving my “official” career behind, I feel like I’m finally in a position to truly reap some of these benefits.
I find joy in keeping plants alive and watching them grow. I mentioned in an Instagram post this summer the awe we felt that with some effort, some of our trees were thriving. New growth on the tops of the trees is evident despite the heat and lack of water. Homegrown fruits, vegetables and herbs are more flavorful than storebought, and there’s something special about taking a bite into food that I grew.
Fresh air has a way of clearing my mind. I can easily mull over a stressor or challenge while working outside. I eventually come to some resolution or forget the issue for the time altogether. Even at the most stressful points in my life, I enjoyed hopping on the lawnmower for an hour and listening to the hum of the engine. Sometimes I’d listen to a podcast or music. Sometimes it’s silence, and yet when the job is done, the dark cloud over my head is gone and I have a pretty lawn to show for my efforts.
Fresh air and yard work are not always synonymous though – at home this summer, we spent many nights sitting on the front porch with my parents just as I’d always done growing up, watching the cars drive by while we talked in the candlelight.
There’s so much to notice in nature: the way the wind blows through the leaves telling us that rain is coming. The way clouds form above our heads; weeds grow through narrow cracks in the sidewalks; ants carry food 10 times their size; the sureness of the sun rising every morning and setting every evening. I find that I pay more attention to little things though I still don’t “stop and smell the roses” much, if at all. Perhaps I need to work on this.
It encourages physical exercise and strengthening. While exercising in the traditional sense isn't really my thing, I don’t mind carrying around plants and spreading mulch…and I love going on hikes, nature walks and bike rides, all of which are exercise, nonetheless. Time spent outdoors typically requires some form of movement, which strengthens our muscles and gets our hearts pumping.
Perhaps there are other benefits too that will be clearer to me in the upcoming months and years. Here’s what I know though: gardeners are some of the nicest, most happy people I know, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.