The Healing Powers of Gardening: How My Life Was Saved by a Garden


My buddy Shawna Coronado, a guest blogger, wrote the article for today. Little did I know that Shawna’s story would be so ideal for a new campaign I was working on when I recently met her on Twitter. I set out on a mission to be a champion for gardening because of all the budget cuts and decreased media attention it is receiving these days. I had intended to call my campaign “In Defense of Gardening,” with my apologies to Michael Pollan, but for the time being, I’m going with “Why Gardening is Important.”

The health advantages this popular pastime provides for millions of people contribute to its importance. We all know the benefits we individually experience from gardening in terms of stress relief and a little exercise, but multiple studies conducted throughout the world demonstrate just how vital gardening is in several ways that go far beyond what we do as a pastime.

So let me now introduce you to Shawna and tell you how she credits gardening for perhaps saving her young life:

I was in pretty poor health more than ten years ago. As a single mother, I also suffered from endometriosis, stress, bad eating habits, severe allergies, high blood pressure, asthma, and chemical and sugar sensitivity. As a result, there were serious upper respiratory issues. I was constantly ill with bronchitis brought on by allergies, as well as constant female problems including yeast and bacterial infections, headaches, and head and back discomfort.

The pressure from all of these things and many others started to mount in my life. Before I knew it, I weighed only 96 pounds and had the appearance of a skeletal stick figure. My back would frequently give out, rendering me unable to move for days or even weeks at a time. I worked, returned home, and hardly ever ventured outside. I once needed to take over a dozen prescription medications every day simply to get by. It was a life of gloom.

A surprise event that forever altered my life occurred one day when I had the brilliant notion to construct a garden on the city-owned property adjacent to my front mailbox. That encounter marked the start of an amazing trip for me, both physically and mentally. It was a revelation, and I soon “downsized” my career to become a full-time writer and professional garden designer. I am thirty pounds heavier than I was 10 years ago, but I look and feel better than I ever have. I also have my best hair and skin ever. I still need to take my meds, but instead of taking over a dozen a day, I now only take three.

I’ve had many gardens now, and I still love to garden. I began to experience improvement from all of my medical conditions as I was exposed to the outdoors and increased my physical activity. I was able to recuperate and feel like I am alive again with the support of a better diet, exercise, and exposure to the outdoors. It was such a significant transformation, even though it was far from flawless, that I still believe it qualifies as “a miracle.” In 2008, I authored and released “Gardening Nude,” a book promoting better health via environmental exposure and becoming green, because regaining my health through gardening had been such an amazing experience for me.

Growing plants and adopting a green lifestyle help me manage stress better, which in turn makes my body more tolerant of my allergies and other problems. I schedule time for the outdoors, but what’s more crucial to my strategy is that I schedule time with my community. Building a healthier community is a great way to extend your soul, especially in the gardening community. I became aware of how vital it is to be a member of a community through interactions with residents and the quirky friendships I forged with amazing neighbors. This realization can also apply to you.

A logical first step toward community is gardening. Who is in the gardening season and has a plant or product to share? every gardener I’m aware of. A healthy mental relationship can be established with another person just by giving to them. While it’s important to put in the physical work to go outside and develop a garden, what will improve your emotional health is the act of following through with the community.

My focus now is on bringing people together in the community and showing them that it is possible to lead an active, healthy, and environmentally friendly lifestyle. It is possible to have less tension, loneliness, and dissatisfaction with oneself and one’s life. I am aware of it because my family and I happily live a green lifestyle.

All because of a garden and a persistent woman.

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