Hands in the dirt, head in the sun, and feel the therapeutic power of gardening.
I don’t know about you, but my garden just loved having me stuck at home most of the past year. Along with our pets and our attics, our gardens were unexpected beneficiaries of the pandemic, getting more TLC than they’ve had in years and keeping us sane and healthy with their therapeutic power into the bargain. And the old adage “A garden is a friend that you can visit anytime” took on new meaning through the long months of social distancing.
The therapeutic power of gardening for mental health is well documented. From alleviating stress, depression, and anxiety to improving cognitive function and staving off dementia, taking care of plants are clearly one of the best ways of taking care of ourselves. Even for those who don’t have their own garden, tending a window box or house plants, growing tomatoes on the windowsill, or getting involved in a community garden can work wonders for our mood and self-esteem.
Never underestimate the healing power of a quiet moment in the garden. - Anonymous
Gardening can be therapeutic as a solo activity or as an opportunity to connect and bond with your family and friends. Kids especially love to get their hands in the dirt, and few of us who started gardening at a young age can forget the thrill of observing the magical alchemy of a tiny seed transforming into a plant, a flower, or food. Especially in this age of screen addiction, gardening is also a great way to take a break from our devices.
"Caring for your garden can be a great form of mindfulness meditation. By connecting with the earth and with the practice of gardening, you can cultivate a healthy mind and feel calm and connected. Simply planting a seed with intention, or touching soil, can be transformative” says Suze Yalof Schwartz, founder of Unplug Meditation.
On top of that, gardening can be a great workout, burning calories and fortifying our hearts while boosting dexterity and strength. As one study comments, “there is a gym outside many a window”. Sunshine lowers blood pressure and gives us much-needed vitamin D, and if we grow vegetables chances are we’ll be improving our diets too.
At the same time, gardening can be hard on the body, and a few solid hours of digging, weeding, or planting can leave even the fittest among us with sore muscles, backs, and knees. Below we’ll look at some handy DIY acupressure massage techniques to relieve these aches and pains – but first here are some tips on minimizing them in the first place!
Just like any other kind of workout, it’s important to warm up your muscles before a serious bout of gardening. A short brisk walk and/or some back, leg, and arm stretches should do the trick.
2. The right tools
Your choice of tools can make a big difference in managing any existing injuries and preventing future ones. Equipment with long handles can reduce bending, while a good wheelbarrow is every gardener’s best friend. Kneelers, pads or stools are a must for easing pressure on the knees. If kneeling or bending down to the ground causes significant pain in your back or knees, consider using raised beds to do your gardening.
3. Change positions frequently
Be aware of how your body feels as you work in your garden. If any part of your body starts to ache or feel stiff, take a break and stretch in the opposite direction (e.g. if you’ve been leaning forward, do some gentle backward bends). Try switching to a different gardening activity to vary your body position.
4. Good body mechanics
When lifting or pulling (e.g. on a stubborn weed), bend your knees, tighten your abdominals then straighten your knees slowly as you come up, keeping your back straight. If you have to lift something heavy unaided, make sure you grip with both hands and keep the item as close to your body as possible as you lift. Avoid twisting your spine or knees when moving things to the side; instead, move your feet or pivot on your toes.
5. Take your time
Don't try to get all your big gardening jobs done in one day. To benefit most from the therapeutic power of gardening just like any other activity, don't overdo it - take it at your own pace and take regular breaks. Especially if you haven’t done any gardening in a while, work in short stints, enjoy, and take your time. Listen to your body – if the aches and pains are really setting in, it’s time to stop for the day. Just like a workout at the gym, pushing yourself too hard can often backfire!
6. Sun protection
Okay, sunburn/stroke isn’t exactly an injury, but it’s definitely to be avoided! If you’re lucky enough to be out in the garden on a sunny day, get your vitamin D fix early morning or late afternoon but don’t forget to don your hat and sunscreen in the heat of the day – and stay hydrated!
Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years. - Anonymous
DIY Acupressure Massage for
Gardening Aches and Pains
Still got a few aches and pains after gardening? Now here's some more therapeutic advice with our "Acupressure Massage Therapy to the Rescue!" section. Here are a few points you can work on to relieve back, knee, and shoulder pain.
Missed's Katoka Massage Therapy's acupressure guide? Here is Your Acupressure Guide.
DIY ACUPRESSURE TECHNIQUE
To stimulate the acupressure points, go into them slowly but firmly with a finger or thumb, and massage them with a circular or up-and-down motion for at least 30 seconds and up to 3 minutes at a time. (Or just count 10 to 20 deep breaths for each point, if you find it more relaxing than looking at the clock!)
Kidney Transporter or Shen shu - BL23
Willpower Room or Zhi shi - BL52
These adjacent pairs of points are great for lower back pain, a common post-gardening complaint. They are located at waist level, respectively two finger widths (BL23) and four finger widths (BL52) on either side of the spine.
Place your hands on your waist and move your thumbs or third finger towards the spine to find the points, then apply firm pressure. A friend or partner can also massage these points for you.
Middle of the Bend or Wei zhong - BL40
This point is very effective for relieving pain and stiffness in the back, hips, and knees. Easy to find, it’s on the back of each knee, right in the centre of the knee crease. You can massage these when sat down if you prefer. Also used for skin conditions and abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea.
STOMACH MERIDIAN Leg Three Miles or Zu San Li - ST36
Located on the shin, about a hand length below the kneecap and just outside the tibia bone. This much-used acupressure point will help strengthen the muscles of your entire body, including your knees and legs, and also helps relieve knee pain, dispel fatigue and boost vitality. (Interesting fact: this point’s name originated from its popularity among Chinese soldiers in ancient times, who massaged it to revive their strength and energy so that they could go the extra “three miles” during long cross-country marches.)
TRIPLE BURNER MERIDIAN (TRIPLE ENERGISER / TRIPLE WARMER or SAN JIAO) Central Islet or Zhong zhu – TB3
And here’s one for shoulders, neck, and upper back pain!
This point can be found in the groove between the knuckles of your ring and little finger (both hands). Place your thumb on the acupoint and apply strong pressure. Also helpful in treating headaches and eye diseases.
To see more pressure points for relieving shoulder and neck pain, as well as headaches and migraines, check out this blog in our DIY acupressure massage therapy series. Numbness or strain in your hands after gardening? Help is here!
And remember you can always book a virtual or in-person DIY acupressure massage therapy session with me.
Happy Therapeutic gardening!
“Gardening is the greatest tonic and therapy a human being can have. Even if you have only a tiny piece of earth, you can create something beautiful, which we all have a great need for. If we begin by respecting plants, it’s inevitable we’ll respect people.” - Audrey Hepburn
Sources and Further Reading:
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