Maritza (Mitzy) Pardo M.A., BCBA
Cultivating Calmness: The Benefits of Gardening
Updated: Mar 3, 2022
Adults and children alike experience moments of overstimulation and may have extreme reactions to excessive noise, crowds, lights, smells, or internal feelings. Finding ways to cultivate calmness is key to counteract overstimulation and achieve better overall balance.
For many people (especially parents), a calm environment means an impossible stillness or tranquility that can only be achieved on a getaway. Since the onset of the pandemic, many have been unable to take a holiday away and have had to find other creative means of rest and relaxation. For some, that has meant picking up a yoga practice from the middle of the living room or going on long walks about the neighborhood. While others have discovered new TV shows and had time to catch up on that long list of must-read books. While everyone's idea of establishing calmness may differ, there is a great many of us that have found calm through the art of gardening. And there's good reason as to why so many of us are drawn to it.
Gardening is an outdoor activity linked to many health benefits for both the mind and body. In International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, we learn that gardening can help ease stress and clinical depression. Luckily, gardening is also an activity that children can participate in. From simple tasks such as digging or watering plants, to more physical activities such as carrying pots, watering cans, pulling a wagon with gardening supplies, children utilize and strengthen 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.
Whether you decide to plant flowers, sturdy succulents, or vegetables, the simple activity of being outdoors on its own can provide the opportunity to slow down, breathe fresh air, be mindful, and enjoy momentary respite from the chaos of the day. You can also use gardening as a joint activity for bonding with your children, giving them a sense of connectivity to life as well as each other.