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Reflect and release as you garden

You may wonder how I kept from alienating my family, friends and neighbors in the last 11 “COVID months.” It really took a great deal of physical energy.

Instead of arguing incessantly over political idiocies and how to stop a pandemic, I cleaned my home, ate anything that stood still long enough, baked, roasted, sauteed, fried new recipes and sewed face masks. Then in my “free time,” I did the one thing that saved my frenetic psyche: I cleaned out four flower beds, rearranged 32 hostas, Jack Frost, lamb’s ears, day lilies and lilies of the valley. I drove leisurely through Mill Creek Park, walked through my kind friends’ gardens (while social distancing) and got dirty planting my garlic to enjoy next year.

From nature to gardening, I enjoyed everything around me.

I took it in and made sure to catch the small bits of beauty, the designs of nature, the smells and the wonder of it all. From nature in the park to nature in my own garden, it all has positive effects on us — especially during these trying times.

Yes, the connection between nature and the human psyche runs deep. Some say we are hard-wired to seek it when stressed.

If you wonder why houseplants grow better when we talk to them, (besides the obvious CO2 and O2 exchange), medical and scientific research has now proven why. One examples is Roger Ulrich, director of the Center for Health Systems and Design at TAMU. He showed that surgical patients who had views of nature during recovery had shorter post-operative stays, took less pain medication and experienced fewer minor post-operative complications than those with a view of a brick wall.

The British University of Exeter Medical School analyzed mental health data from 10,000 city dwellers and used high-resolution mapping to track where the subjects had lived over 18 years. They found that people living near more green space reported less mental distress.

In 2009, a team of Dutch researchers found a lower incidence of 15 diseases, including “depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, asthma and migraines in people who lived within about a half mile of green space.”

Light and moderate backyard gardening shows a reduction in cortisol, lower blood pressure, muscle endurance, advances in critical thinking and increased agility according to the University of Vermont.

Although nature cannot cure diseases, research shows that it does facilitate the body’s natural healing process by reducing stress factors. To learn more about some of the research noted above and to learn how to better connect with the nature around you, go to http://go.osu.edu/healinggardens.

You may then decide to treat yourself to a holiday gift by watching the birds at your bird feeder or bundling up and enjoying a walk in the woods. Visit a local park on a sunny day. Maybe planning your spring garden with do the trick, too.

Quaranta is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener volunteer.

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