3 ways mindful gardening can help you switch off when your mind is really busy

Your mind is super cluttered thinking about all the things you have to do and no matter how hard you try to switch off those thoughts are always creeping back in.  

Here are 3 ways mindful gardening can help you to quiet your busy mind including a step by step mindful gardening activity for you to get started with.

It allows you to be present in the moment

When you’re travelling through life at 100mph and your brain is so full of all the things you have to do, it can be really difficult to stay present in the moment.  

Do you ever lose your train of thought midway through a sentence?

This is a sure sign that your brain is overloaded and you’re in need of some headspace.

You’ve probably heard of mindfulness. The dictionary definition of it is ‘the mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations.’

And you may have even tried it. But perhaps whilst you were trying to be mindful, thoughts about the food shop, what to have for dinner, that work project you’ve got on, kept on charging in and you felt like it wasn't really working for you.

Whilst your thoughts popping up during mindfulness sessions isn't a problem, practitioners advise you to let them appear and then float away which can be hard when they are all jostling for space in there.

Mindful gardening helps your very busy brain to easily get into a mindful state while focusing on the gardening activity you are doing.

It’s almost an introduction to mindfulness, a way to start to train your brain to let those thoughts float away.


It is a form of active rest

Active rest, that sounds like an oxymoron doesn't it?

If you’ve ever picked up an injury in the gym or playing sport you’ll know that once the injury is starting to heal the doctor advises you to perform light exercises such as swimming or cycling that encourages the injured muscles to recover without imposing unnecessary stress on them.

We can apply the same theory to our poor, overworked brains.

BUT we need to teach our brains HOW to slow down rather than just slamming the brakes on for a couple of reasons.  Firstly because if you just try and slam the brakes on as I mentioned earlier in the mindfulness example you will struggle, tell yourself you can’t do it and give up. Secondly, imagine if every mealtime you gave your child a yoghurt for pudding for years and then one day, out of the blue you withhold the yoghurt- all hell breaks loose right?

Just as you trained your child to expect a yoghurt. You’ve trained your brain to expect to be crammed full of thoughts 24/7.

Enter stage right, active rest activities for your brain that ensure that the brain is active enough but not so active that it becomes stressed.

Pretty much all gardening activities are a form of active rest, as they require some level of concentration but not to the level of reading or writing this blog post for example.

Once you have learnt the basic skill your brain can complete it without having to think too much about it.



Repetitive activity

Not only is gardening cyclical and by that I mean the same activities can be done at roughly similar times each year but the actual activities themselves are repetitive.

For example when you sow seeds.  The first couple of seeds that you sow:

🌱 Add the compost to the pot

🌱  Empty the seeds out onto your hand and pick one up between your thumb and forefinger

🌱  Place the seed on the top of the compost

🌱  Cover the seed with compost

🌱  Water the seed

Repeat over and over until all your seeds are sown.

This process gives your brain a chance to learn the skill on the first couple of seeds and then as you repeat and repeat it gets into a state of active rest where your brain is almost on autopilot.

This opens up the headspace for you to process some of the things that have been happening in your life and how you feel about them. Something that very often we are too busy to notice, which leads to us becoming disconnected from how we are feeling.

When you add in extra mindful touches to the seed sowing experience you can really achieve that state of mindfulness that I mentioned earlier.

🌷 Pick up a handful of compost, raise it to your nose, close your eyes and take a deep breath- what does the smell remind you of.

🌱  Add the compost to the pot

🌷  Take your packet of seeds in your hand and before you open it give it a shake and listen carefully. Can you imagine the seed inside? What do you think it looks like?

🌱  Empty the seeds out onto your hand and pick one up between your thumb and forefinger

🌷  Look carefully at the seed, does it look like you imagined it to?  What colour is it? Notice the seed coat is it rough or smooth? Does it look like the other seed in the packet?

🌱  Place the seed on the top of the compost

🌷  Taking some compost in your hand, notice the sensation as it falls through your fingers to…..

🌱  Cover the seed with compost

🌷 Listen carefully to the sound of the water contacting the soil as you….

🌱  Water the seed

🌷 Notice the colour change in the compost as you water your seed

🌱  Repeat over and over until all your seeds are sown.

The last two mindful steps you can employ every time you need to find calm quickly, give your seeds or seedlings a drink and focus on what you can hear and what you can see.

If you’d like some more mindful gardening activities to help you switch off this month then download 11 more right here. Let me know which is your favourite!

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