Spring Gardening and Emotional and Relational Health
By Dr. Brad Schwall
Gardening is a rite of spring. Gardening involves clearing away, adding to and maintenance. We clear away the weeds and prep the soil. The clearing is followed by adding the seeds, the flowers, the fruits and vegetables. But, our work is not done. We water, we fertilize and we keep the weeds and pets and critters out so that our work isn’t undone and the plants grow. We enjoy a sense of accomplishment as we get to enjoy the flowers or use the fruits and vegetable in our meals.
We can apply similar strategies to being emotionally and relationally healthy. We can clear away obstacles to growth, add thoughts and actions that encourage health and be intentional about nurturing those new ways of relating and viewing life.
Just as weeds take away the space and nutrients needed for plants to grow, negative actions and attitudes interfere with a sense of calmness and contentment and prevent well-being and growth.
We must remove what prevents a healthy sense of self, well-being and growth. We may have resentments from the past – anger about how we’ve been treated or how things have turned out for us. We may have critical thoughts about ourselves. There may be shame. We will not grow unless we work to edit or counteract these thoughts and feelings. Taking away the negative makes room for the positive.
We can ask these questions to decide what to take away:
- Does it make me a better person?
- Does it bring peace and contentment?
- Does it show love?
If it doesn’t, we clear it away.
We might want to take away attitudes and actions such as these:
- Trying to do too much
- Negative attitudes
- Criticism of self or others
- Refusal to seek help and support
Our garden might be made up of flowers or fruits or vegetables. Whether we are planting seeds or the plants themselves, we are adding to our garden what we want to see grow. To be relationally and emotionally healthy, we must add to our lives what will help us grow and thrive.
Developing health and wholeness can mean adding these attitudes and actions to our lives:
- Positive emotion – being grateful boosts our outlook on life.
- Relationships – caring, healthy relationships add to our well-being. Research shows we are physically healthier when we have positive relationships and are surrounded by people who support us and care for us.
- Activities that bring meaning – research shows that we are not only motivated by material rewards. We seek to be engaged in what we are doing and find meaning in it.
Once the garden is planted we must water it, fertilize it, protect it from pets and critters, and keep it clear of weeds. Maintaining growth requires intention. Being intentional helps us to maintain what we’ve accomplished and continue in our growth. We can find ways to remind ourselves daily of what we want to be intentional about. Intention can happen even in the midst of hectic days, errand-running, kid chauffeuring, and laundry.
- Time with family and friends
- Time for quiet
- Reading scripture
Intention sounds like it requires discipline or structure. Intention just means living by what helps us each day to have a positive and grateful attitude and to be an encouragement to others. Being present, in the moment, throughout the day staying in tune with our attitudes and actions can help us to stay connected to our intentions. No matter how busy we are, we can be intentional with our attitudes and our interactions. Life is a process. Life is short. Make the most of every day by clearing away what isn’t helpful or useful, adding what makes you happy and being intentional about always learning and growing.