Happy #GardeningExerciseDay to our green-fingered students! And to those of you who haven’t yet experienced the benefits of getting up close with nature and plant life while at Roey, give me two rich minutes to open your mind to it (that’s, what…? a single half-interested scroll of Instagram?).
‘We are living in a culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time, in which the so-called present moment is felt as nothing but an infinitesimal hairline between an all-powerfully causative past and an absorbingly important future. We have no present. Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied with memory and expectation.’—Alan Watts
1. Engaging with nature should help you focus on the present, reducing anxieties of the future and avoiding dwelling on the past, thus lowering stress (cortisol) levels.
As you know, being a student in this day and age is immensely stressful. We’re tethered to digital addictions and deadlines, and whenever we take a break it may feel like we’re only sacrificing our own development, so in the end we’re not truly satisfied with our timeouts.
Gardening helps us focus on the present, while providing hope for the future. It helps not only our physical wellbeing, but perhaps more importantly our mental health.
Fab day down at our #ProjectGrow site this morning, getting everything ready for the summer season! ☀️ . . . . . #sustainablestudents #community #gardening #gardeningforbetterhealth #ediblecampusgardens #communityoutreach #vegtothepeople #vegetable #foodgrowing #sustainablefoodsystems #urbanfoodgrowing #london #roehampton
2. Gardening is a useful skill to acquire; becoming more self-sustainable will likely improve your independence and quality of life.
You may have heard that Scandinavian countries such as Denmark and Norway are the happiest in the world, and one large factor contributing to that is their ecological superiority. Norwegian playwright Henrick Ibsen coined the term ‘friluftsliv’ (meaning ‘free-air living’) in the 19th Century; a key philosophy still to this day in Norwegian and Swedish culture. It focuses on many things but its key message is revolving life around the outdoors through regular walks and eating all natural foods.
We are lucky to be in one of London’s greenest areas, so the potential to implement ‘friluftsliv’ into your lifestyle is there should you choose to. If you don’t fancy resting in Richmond or Hyde Park then there are plenty of green spaces on campus, especially in Froebel, for you to spend some time reconnecting with nature.
3. If you don’t fancy gardening, forest bathing or at the very least owning some plant life will improve the air-quality you intake and should lower cortisol.
‘Forest bathing’ is an increasingly popular practice. If you’re picturing laying in a steamy hot tub in the wilderness, it’s actually a lot simpler than that. All it means is taking the time to immerse yourself in woodlands, disconnecting yourself from the virtual world and paying attention to the different sensations you may experience with both arboreal and plant life. Providing you don’t go round eating mud pies or lying in stagnant water it’s actually supposed to help reduce the likelihood of you catching a virus, because you’re taking in fresh air as opposed to recycled air indoors with people who may have the flu. If you are practising this alone, however, make sure you know the environment you’re exploring and let someone know where you are going. Also bring bug repellent and plenty of water!
If your schedule is too busy for walks, I would advise at the very least to buy some long-lasting plantlife to improve air quality in your room and create a healthier environment for you. There are plenty of florists and plant markets in London.
4. Gardening is also a fantastic form of exercise and, if done sensibly, should help development and maintenance of muscular and joint health.
Social and therapeutic horticulture has been used in welfare institutions such as rehabilitation clinics, care homes and even in some workplaces. The benefits include lowering cortisol (stress hormone) levels, while the exercise helps maintain healthy joints as well as building muscle. Pushing a wheelbarrow or weeding a deep rooted plant it is a good way of relieving tension too.
Whether you are living on or off campus, there are things you can do, from growing your own fresh and nutritious produce indoors to getting involved with community gardens in the area or seeing what gardening opportunities there are around the colleges. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a breath of fresh air outside gardening more soothing than sweating it out next to someone on a treadmill.
Last year it was reported that London’s air pollution levels were exceeding that of Beijing’s, a city notorious for its smog. So not only will gardening help you both physically and mentally, it will improve the general quality of life in the city for everyone. And forest bathing will help you escape from the low-quality air.
‘Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts.’—Sigmund Freud
If you’re not an environmentally-astute student, and never have been, don’t stress about all the unknowns. There are plenty of people on-campus, in the local area and online to help you easily grasp the basics. Trust me, as Environmental Officer 2018/19, I can openly say that I am still a novice in gardening, but I have the support of the Growhampton team at the university and you do too, so make use of it!