Gardening as a Mindfulness Exercise

Jun 6, 2024

Within the last few years, the Royal Horticulture Society (RHS) and a few partner Universities did a study to help determine whether gardening is a mindfulness activity and the impact it has on our mental well-being (Mind & Soil).

For this, a benchmark needed to be established so they reviewed how stressed the participants were at the beginning of the study.  At the beginning, they found that only 24% had healthy cortisol, known as the “stress hormone”, patterns. 

Over the course of a year, the RHS gave a portion of the participants a range of plants and flowers to have their own garden.  At the same time, they continued to test and measure cortisol levels. At the conclusion of the study, the RHS discovered that the number of participants that displayed healthy cortisol levels climbed from 24% to 53%.  Therefore declaring, after a year-long study, that exposure to gardening increased healthy cortisol levels among respondents more than double.

With these stats, I think it is fair to conclude that gardening can, in fact, serve as an effective mindfulness activity.

A few tips to make this as effective as possible:

  • The focus should not be on the harvest, rather, intentionally practicing slowing down and embracing the moment and the act of gardening
  • Feel free to start outdoors or in – recognizing that indoors may require a grow light or additional supplies
  • Containers or raised beds, the principles of Mindful Gardening apply to both

A garden provides the perfect canvas to embrace mindfulness, become fully engaged and present in the moment.  One way to do this is by activating all 5 senses in the garden:

  1. Hearing – spend 2-3 minutes breathing deeply and counting how many unique sounds you can hear (cars driving by, kids playing, birds chirping, trees blowing, etc.)
  2. Touch – Spend 2-3 minutes running your hands through the soil and weeding a small patch.  Is it cool? Warm? How moist does it feel? How much life is resting in your hands?
  3. Smell – Spend 2-3 minutes burying your face in a few plants and deeply breathing in the scent of each. Gently rub the leaves between your fingers, what do you smell? Place your face within an inch or two of each plant, take as deep of a breath as you can, repeat a few times.
  4. Sight – Spend 2-3 minutes simply inspecting only 1 plant and count how many unique intricacies you hadn’t noticed earlier.  New growth, veins, insects, colors, etc. – what all do you see?
  5. Taste – Try each of the following to contrast the textures and tastes, if edible. A leaf, a flower, a fruit – gently pull each off, one by one, and slowly enjoy its flavor.  Repeat and notice differences.  What is pleasing to the palette? What is surprising?

After all of this, notice how you feel.  You may even find your nervous system in a calmer state than prior.  Carry this over to try to find peace, joy, and restoration in life. The earth and your body will be grateful.

Each week we try to correlate these Blog Posts with our weekly newsletter.  If you haven’t yet, enter your first name, email and click “yes, please” in the black box within the main Blog Page of this website to have these drop into your inbox weekly. In each you will also get a helpful Mindful Minute – this week, “Get in the Dirt.”

For additional tips on mindful living and topics like this, follow me @livinghealthyin5fields on social media.



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