Gardening, whether it happens indoors or out, is a great way to counteract the daily grind of modern life. It’s simple, it’s slow and, most importantly, it’s not a screen-based activity.
I can’t be the only one to feel that modern, working life is needlessly exhausting. The daily grind, the 9 to 5, the rat race – whatever you want to call it – can often feel hectic, crowded, and unfulfilling. In trying to do life properly we often achieve the opposite by attempting to cram too much in. One of the elements of everyday life that wears me down more than anything else is screen time.
It seems to me that we spend the majority of our waking hours looking at or interacting with screens. Whether you’re looking at social media feeds full to the brim with brands, publications and people trying to get your attention, work emails, spreadsheets, instant messages, or whatsapp groups, the rise of the screens is seemingly unstoppable. And it seems I’m not alone in feeling disheartened at this; the internet is full of tales about people deleting Facebook, undertaking a ‘digital-detox’, or trading their smartphones in for a Nokia 3310.
I am, of course, not saying that I eschew all screen-related activity, although I wish I could. I spend most of my working hours at a computer, and needlessly twitch towards my phone somewhere in the region of ten thousand times a day. I scroll absent-mindedly through Twitter and Pinterest and swipe endlessly through Instagram stories. But not always because I want to. Just because it’s, well, there I suppose. Social media and the internet can, of course, bring people together and connect ideas. It’s the very reason I’m sat here typing about my gardening exploits, and it allows me to post pictures of succulents to my instagram followers just for the love of plants. I get that. But it can also be a bit too much sometimes.
All of these things put together (plus the unpleasantness of being desk-bound all day – I loathe being desk-bound) are why I fell in love with gardening.
A place of refuge
I’m not exaggerating when I say that gardening is like a form of therapy. This is largely because it’s everything that modern life isn’t. It tends to take place outdoors (unless your garden is of the window-ledge variety); it involves physical activity; you get your hands dirty, quite literally; and it’s a slow process that necessitates patience and understanding.
In the Western world our lifestyles are increasingly sedentary, we sit at desks, on trains, in cars, in front of the television. We click, we swipe, we stare. But gardening breaks free of this. It’s not exactly on a par with a high intensity workout, but it is physical – as physical as you want it to be. You can potter around slowly and deadhead, water, and weed. Or you can roll up your sleeves, dig up that dying shrub in the corner and cut it up into pieces for the compost bin. Your garden, your choice.
A chance to learn about the world around you
Since moving into a small terrace house three years ago, I’ve turned my tiny, paved back yard into something of an oasis. And I’m damn proud. Looking back over this period, I’ve learnt a fair amount about the natural world and the ways in which plants operate. I’m a firm believer that learning is one of the great joys in life and thankfully, learning how to garden is easy, relatively cheap, and fairly accessible.
Through practice, books, and internet research, I’ve increased my understanding of plants and how they grow tenfold. Having something like this – a hobby, or passion, I suppose you could call it – that is totally separate from everyday work life, is enriching. On weekends I find myself walking around botanical gardens or public parks and making observations about the plants growing there – trying to identify what things are, or wondering if I could grow something similar.
In other words, gardening might just take you by surprise and change your life. What’s stopping you?