Mindfulness in the Garden

“If you must look back, do so forgivingly. If you must look forward, do so prayerfully. But the wisest course would be to be present in the present…gratefully.” -Dr. Maya Angelou

Perhaps you’ve noticed a lot of people using the word “mindfulness” lately. Generally speaking, practicing mindfulness means being aware of the present moment while recognizing the thoughts and sensations caused by this awareness. Being mindful in the garden does not mean that you have to create a special space, though maybe that works for you. Mindfulness is merely a purposeful awareness that, when practiced overtime, can become part of our daily lives. According to Anne Dutton, Director of Mindfulness Education at Yale School of Medicine, mindfulness involves three main elements:

  • paying attention to what is happening in the present moment;
  • doing this purposely and deliberately, with resolve; and,
  • maintaining the attitude that you will stay with your mindfulness experience, whether it’s pleasant or unpleasant (Katella, 2020).

So why is mindfulness commonly encouraged in our world today? Studies show that mindfulness can be a stress reducer, decreasing anxiety and blood pressure. It also aids with depression, chronic pain, and even heart disease. Mindfulness can help with many of the emotions associated with the ongoing pandemic such as feeling a lack of control, grief, and uncertainty. Being mindful forces us to embrace the moment and recognize our senses rather than merely racing through a task with one distraction after another. It helps us to focus and slow down, embrace gratitude and breathe.

Being mindful doesn’t mean that you have to embrace every single moment out of every single day. Even brief moments of mindfulness are beneficial. This is especially true in the garden, as proven by the longevity of the phrase, “stop and smell the roses.” When we stop to smell the proverbial roses, we appreciate seemingly mundane details of nature, which become captivating. Aside from the benefits of being mindful, using your flowerbed or vegetable garden as the environment to practice has the added benefit of producing a harvest and beautifying your personal space.

Some keys to practicing mindfulness in the garden:

  • Put away your phone. Ever stopped to google one thing on your phone, then look up 45 minutes later and realize you have been completely oblivious to every single thing going on around you? That is the opposite of mindfulness.
  • Use plants that engage multiple senses. Lavender, rosemary, and sage are all good examples of plants that are visually pleasing but also have the added benefit of an enjoyable scent. They also differ in texture from one another encouraging touch. Create areas of plants you can taste, such as parsley, cilantro, and mint. Use plants that will move in the wind, creating sounds. Each time you practice, recognize three things in your garden that you can see, smell, hear, and even taste.
  • Create a consistent routine. Don’t put the added pressure on yourself to make time for mindfulness in the garden, schedule it ahead of time. Even 15-30 minutes of time every other day or once a weekend is a great start.
  • Add elements that allow you to pause for unscheduled mindfulness such as a chair, lounge seating, bench or sitting wall.
  • STOP – stop, take a breath, observe, proceed. If your mind wanders – surprise you’re human! Routinely STOP to maintain focus and return to mindfulness.

Added benefits to practicing mindfulness in the garden include an increase in Vitamin D, exercise, and mental stimulation. If you are an avid gardener then you also know that working in nature allows you to see how living things evolve from season to season. It is a constant reminder that the circle of life is consistent and there is harmony in that. Once you master mindfulness in the garden, use your new skill in other aspects of your life as well such as work, cooking or even cleaning. You likely will discover many aspects of your life that you routinely overlook, but that give you great joy. That encourages gratitude, and that is enlightenment!


Katella, K. (2020). Mindfulness: How It Can Help Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic. Yale Medicine. https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/mindfulness-covid#:~:text=Mindfulness%20can%20stop%20the%20chatter,one%20who%20is%20seriously%20ill.