With so many of our lives turned upside down from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is becoming crucial to find strategies and activities that have purpose and future orientation. Finding something that allows us to consider the future without worry about the novel coronavirus can be challenging. Having something to look forward to is both grounding and necessary for our mental well-being.
Many news stories are currently focused on the question around “how long will this crisis last”. Without a crystal ball, and by listening to medical experts who describe scientific models that chart and track the spread of this pandemic, can leave us feeling overwhelmed and anxious. None of us have a sense of what will occur over the next number of weeks or months.
My brother mentioned the concept of a “victory garden” to me last week and since then I have been using time on the internet to learn more about this phenomenon from the Second World War. Certainly this type of research has been both inspiring and has served to keep me from obsessively reading about our world crisis. People have always creatively used soil cultivation to grow food in ways to help others as well as themselves.
There are wonderful models of community and kitchen gardens that will likely flourish over the next couple of months. Gardening is a great activity to assist us in having a more future oriented focus. Watching seedlings pop up, preparing the soil (if it ever warms up!), and organizing and planning your garden design are great things to look forward to. Chatting with friends about seed exchanges and thinking about sharing seedlings and cuttings is a welcome diversion from today’s events.
In this early stage of spring, we can also consider growing vegetables, herbs, and some fruits for others. For neighbours who don’t have the space, for friends and family members, and for those in our lives who have lost their jobs at this time. We can also try and find extra spaces in our yards so we can contribute collectively to our food banks. Last year I noticed vegetables being grown along boulevards in our community and in other public spaces where you used to find grass.
Actually, the more I reflect on growing my garden this year, the more I realize the beneficial aspects of gardening for good mental health in addition to providing us with healthy food. Gardening as a physical activity uses muscles that we don’t often use throughout the winter months. Digging in soil has been shown to improve our immune systems and I have always found the feeling of earth in my fingers to be healing.
For parents now home with their children as schools have been closed, what a wonderful opportunity for education and enrichment by growing things. Collectively we can create opportunities for bees and butterflies to flourish and keep our ecosystems healthy. On this first day of April, I intend to plan my garden, order and pick up seeds on the curb of my favourite gardening centre. This day feels better already. Stay healthy and well!