A chance encounter with a spiritual person led to a conversation about the benefits of gardening. My friend believes that gardening releases endorphins into our body to create a pleasurable experience. I was a bit puzzled by that linkage until I remembered the sensual delight of inserting bare hands into warm soil. Up until now, I have never paid serious attention to how I feel while gardening but whatever I do experience is awesome. Upon reflection, here are some factors that contribute to an almost out-of-body experience:-
Let’s start with fresh air that invigorates and awakens the mind. Now add sunlight, whose warmth makes us feel good while the wide spectrum band of its light rays acts as a mood enhancer.
Now, consider the creativity that is associated with gardening. This mental activity offers an opportunity to experience the “flow” that one enjoys during the process of discovery. The pleasure of this eureka moment defies words. Furthermore, when a gardening job is complete, there is sheer pleasure in admiring the results. This may lead to a satisfying feeling of great accomplishment- a source of pride and a generator of self esteem.
Another description-defying experience is the suspension of time and place while gardening. The deep and intense involvement that this hobby offers makes time stand still. It is possible to work in a trance-like state for hours. This euphoric journey is comparable to meditation, an act that relaxes and produces pleasurable endorphins.
Another similarity to meditation that occurs while gardening is the experience that occurs while we kneel down to focus on individual plants. This is an intimate interaction where we admire nature more acutely and in much greater detail. This intense visual focus helps to deflect worrisome thoughts in the same way that meditation does.
Gardening is an opportunity to engage in beneficial exercise. The physicality associated with this hobby includes walking, bending down and standing up, crouching, lifting, stretching and dragging. All of these activities work the body’s muscles and bones to deliver an aerobic experience to our lungs and heart. Exercise lowers blood pressure, generates a feeling of euphoria and releases endorphins. All of these factors contribute to relaxation; endorphins and relaxation are both sources for happiness.
Finally, there is the peacefulness of the garden that contrasts with the noise and stress of everyday life. Hearing no other sound except for the wind in the trees or birds singing is another pleasurable experience that leads to relaxation.
People who garden experience a decrease in depression, an increased ability to concentrate and a general feeling of physical and mental well being. If that is what the release of endorphins accomplishes, then my spiritual friend is right, after all.