When I was younger going to the park or wandering around some gardens was the last thing I would do as fun day out. Instead, you would find me amid the hustle and bustle of all the shoppers on Oxford Street almost every Saturday, and sometimes Sunday too. Plants? Trees? Why would I care about those?
Well times have changed and if anyone has seen my Instagram page you will know that a picnic in Kew Gardens sitting under a leafy tree with friends and family is my idea of the perfect afternoon. I also love to grow my own flowers, herbs and sometimes veggies, and really do feel that it helps me while living with chronic illness.
These are the five ways that being in nature and taking care of plants can help those with chronic illness, and I suggest it may bring a smile to your face too!
1. It brings a sense of calm
Pottering about in the garden on a summer's day brings such a sense of calm to me. My oldest niece is very much into 'nature' as she calls it, and often shows me her artwork with blossom that has fallen from the trees and the odd stick she has found. It's very cute! So she is often now my gardening companion. Last year we sowed all kinds of veggies, and then ate them months later at a family BBQ.
I've wondered why gardening feels so calming and I think it's that I switch-off from all the medical and health stuff that comes along with chronic illness and focus on the task at hand. All the background chatter of worrying about appointments, organising meds and doing my physio seems to pause for a while. My focus is on the warm sunshine (hopefully!) and planting, trimming and tending to my plants. It's a lovely screen-free way of relaxing that doesn't require too much thought.
While I am fortunate to have a garden, I also have many house plants as well as fresh herbs growing on my windowsill. If you have a suitable windowsill, balcony or other place to keep some plants I think it's a lovely way to create a relaxing atmosphere at home.
Why not try some mini cactus if you are new to growing plants? It's pretty hard to upset them!
2. Staying active
Gardening can really help us stay active, and can be quite the workout! Personally I go for easy maintenance in my garden, so it is simple to keep tidy and doesn't require too much energy or increase my pain levels.
Some great ideas for lower maintenance gardening:
- Use raised flower beds or containers so that you don't need to bend down to a flowerbed, and can stand or sit in a wheelchair to tend to your plants and veggies.
- If you are able to bend down a little, then growing flowers, veggies and herbs in pots is a great idea. My patio has far too many pots on it! They are easy to water and you don't have to worry as much about weeding or trimming back plants that have decided to takeover the whole flowerbed!
- Use self-watering flower pots! Such a brilliant idea for indoors plants for those of us with brain fog that may forget to tend to our leafy friends sometimes . . .
- Invest in a foam kneeling pad for when you are tending to flowerbeds. It will save you from getting achy knees!
3. You get some vitamin D!
Being outdoors in a garden or on a balcony is so lovely on a sunny day, and has the bonus of letting you get some vitamin D too. We all need to keep our levels up for good health so a spot of gardening is beneficial in this way.
Be careful to limit your time in the sun though, especially in the middle of the day and follow 'sun safe' guidelines. If you have sensitive skin like me and find sunscreens a problem, then I would recommend to try the La Roche-Posay Anthelios sunscreen as it is great for sensitive skin.
For those who aren't able to be outdoors, the BetterYou vitamin D spray is my absolute go-to way to supplement. I've used it for years and it's a brilliant product. Of course, always speak with a medical professional before starting a new supplement.
4. Herbs and veggies taste even better home-grown
I think we all know that home-grown food tastes so much better than shop bought! Being able to make soup, salads or just sprinkle some fresh herbs onto a dish is so satisfying and I love that little sense of accomplishment that I grew my own meal.
My favourite vegetables to grow are zucchini, corn and cucumber. I have tried to many times with bell peppers and eggplant, but I always get one tiny fruit and that is it. Not fair given all the watering I do for them!
Basil, parsley and coriander are always on my windowsill and feature in many of my low histamine recipes here on the blog. They add so much flavour! A herb seeds kit makes a great gift for someone - or yourself!
5. Plants can be silly . . .
One of the best ways that taking care of plants can help those with chronic illness I have found is that they really make me smile sometimes. I know what you're thinking - what am I talking about? Are they telling you a joke or something?
Well no, but I do seem to grow cactus that like to become the silliest shapes that can be . . .
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Please follow the advice of your doctor as to all medical treatments, supplements and dietary choices, as set out in my disclaimer. I am not a medical professional, and this post, as well as all other posts on this blog, are for informational purposes only.