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Get grubby, it’s good for you

Date: June 5, 2020
Author: SONIA COX - RAMHP Coordinator

Have you ever noticed that when we come into contact with nature that we feel a sense of gratification? Whether it’s walking along a beach, touching the bark on a tree, dipping our toes into a creek, something seems to ignite within us. We walk away taller, happier and more grounded to ourselves and the ones we love…

When my children were little and getting a bit rambunctious I would take them outside, take their shoes off (if it wasn’t freezing) and ground all that over excited energy. It works for us as adults too.

Being outside can do wonders for relieving anxiety, stress and depression. Fresh air helps to send plenty of oxygen through the blood and allows your lungs to work at full capacity. Countless studies have proven that nature has a positive effect on your mental health. It boosts endorphin levels and dopamine production which promotes happiness. That all being said, the plain simple truth is it feels good to be outside.

Some of my earliest memories of feeling happy involve mudpies and being dirty. Riding our bikes through puddles and getting covered in mud in the process, rolling around in the grass, spending time in the tree house and being outside all day long. It always seemed like it had been a good day if, when it was time to come back inside, we were filthy and in need of a bath.

I can remember going to bed of a night with plans already made as to what we would get up to the next day, which always seemed to be more exciting if it involved getting grubby.

As someone who is definitely a people person, this new reality that we find ourselves in is not something I am comfortable with. Even with the restrictions lifting slightly you second guess yourself. Should you pop over and check on family and friends? Is it really ok to meet your friends for a cuppa?  Will it be safe to take your daughter out for a girl’s day? It really feels like nothing is quite safe at the moment and that the “new normal” we find ourselves in is scary.

Now I am not one who puts any real stock in astrology, but it seems that being a Gemini at this time has its advantages because although I am a people person, I am also the flipside of the coin – I am two halves of the whole if you like.

I also like the isolation of staying at home, being in the garden, reading a good book and painting. It’s these activities that actually help to centre me and keep me grounded. In my normal work life pre-Covid I was really busy; training, organising events and dealing with a lot of people all the time. I needed these activities to quieten me, refocus and reenergise me.

Why is it that as we get older we don’t feel as free to get dirty and mucky if it obviously makes us feel happy and brings a sense of freedom? Then I started to think, don’t I on some level still do that? When I am feeling stressed-out or bored with being indoors I go outside and my spirits lift. If I take my shoes off and walk around on the grass I feel lighter, as if all the negative thoughts and emotions have exited through me into the ground. Its warmth and a sense of wellbeing; this feels right and it feels great.

Then I had another thought.  I have been spending a lot of time in the garden lately, in these uncertain times this has been my light at the end of the tunnel.

My parents have always had a garden and while I have always enjoyed being outside, feeling my hands in the dirt, the warmth of the sun on my head, I never really understood the effect it had on me until recent times. For me, the experience of gardening and seeing things grow has a healing effect. I feel my own strength return as if I too am being nurtured and encouraged to grow. With every bit of earth that passes through my hands, I feel a bit of anxiety and stress leave my body. When I breathe in the fresh air deeply and then exhale it leaves me with a sense of peace.

Most of our suffering comes from trying to control things we can’t and as a self-professed perfectionist, trust me when I say that the more we accept the limits of our control and the unpredictability of life, the more serenity we find. Gardening is a great way to practice this.

Everyday Mother Nature gives me one more reminder that I am not in control. However, this acceptance does not mean giving up, I can give my best to control what I can, I can choose to cover the veggies and keep Jack Frost at bay, and I can let go of the rest.

There is a saying in my family – “Worry is like a rocking chair, it’s something to do but it won’t get you anywhere”. This has never been truer than it is at the moment with so much out of our control. I need to remember my garden, like my life, is in bigger hands than mine. Even if my harvest or my journey wasn’t what I had been expecting, I can still stand in the sunlight, feel the earth between my fingers and toes, and find freedom from my worry.

One response to “Get grubby, it’s good for you”

  1. Frances Chung says:

    Thank you 🙏 that was a nice reminder about where our energy is wasted without us even knowing and how we can recharge . I too have the illusion of being in control … so I love the rocking chair analogy….
    I’m always trying to look after everything and everyone … in my old age I’m realizing more and more I need to start looking after myself more and worry less 🙏

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