• Maritza (Mitzy) Pardo M.A., BCBA

Cultivating Calmness: The Benefits of Gardening

For many people (especially parents), a calm environment means the impossible stillness, peace, and quiet only achieved on a getaway. Since the onset of the pandemic, many have been unable to take a quick holiday or vacation and have had to find other creative means of rest and relaxation. For some, that meant starting yoga or going on long walks, while others have discovered new tv shows and books. While everyone's idea of establishing calmness may differ, many of us have found it through gardening.

Gardening is an outdoor activity linked to many health benefits for both the body and mind. First of all, its ability to reduce stress and depression was demonstrated in an International Journal of Mental Health Nursing article: “A prospective study of group cohesiveness in therapeutic horticulture for clinical depression.” Another great feature of outdoor gardening is that children can participate in it. A simple task such as digging or watering plants can occupy your kids while you take a few moments to yourself, or you can choose to use this time outdoors as a joint activity for bonding. Additionally, carrying pots or watering cans and pulling a wagon with gardening supplies are activities that utilize our joints and muscles. According to the Middletown Center for Autism, resistance activities such as pushing or pulling help provide intense input to our proprioceptive systems, which are known to help regulate our bodies and control our responses to stimuli. Adults and children alike experience moments of overstimulation and may have extreme reactions to excessive noise, crowds, lights, smells, or internal feelings. It can often bring us back to a balanced level when we engage in fun activities that provide the input our bodies need.

Whether you decide to plant flowers, sturdy succulents, or vegetables, the simple activity of being outdoors can provide the opportunity to slow down, be mindful of your breathing, and enjoy that momentary respite we all need.

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