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Why Gardening During COVID-19 Is Healing For The Mind & Soul

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Stress relief can be hard to come by, and yet it’s something many people are seeking this year. For those who are tired of being stuck inside during this pandemic, look no further than your garden for a safe and therapeutic way to get outside.

“It just feels good to hold soil,” Sheryl McGlochlin said, sifting through a fistful.

She said there’s something about dirt that makes the stress of COVID-19 disappear.

“It truly is therapy,” McGlochlin said. She loves to soak up the sunshine and kick off her shoes when she’s working in the garden.

Sheryl McGlochlin said gardening gives her a sense of calmness.

Sheryl McGlochlin has been gardening for years. Despite the pandemic, she says the world feels normal when she is spending time outside in nature.

“Because everything feels normal outside,” she said. “The trees are still so beautiful … everything grows, and so it doesn’t feel like we’re living in a weird kind of year.”

She said it also gives her hope. “Like everything is really going to be okay,” McGlochlin said.

She called gardening ‘work therapy.’

“Being able to work outside is so healing,” she explained.

As a grocery store worker, Randy Ohlwiler is reminded of the virus every day.

As a grocery store worker, Randy Ohlwiler is reminded of the virus daily. He says coming to the garden is his way to escape.

“It has been stressful and wearing the mask for nine and ten hours a day gets (to be) a little bit much sometimes,” he said.

But in the garden, discussion about the coronavirus is off-limits.

“We’re going to talk about gardening, we’re going to talk about our children, we’re going to talk about things other than the fears of the world,” Ohlwiler said.

He said it’s also a much-needed break from electronic devices. “In fact, I left my phone in my car. I just realized that 15 minutes ago,” he said, noting that he didn’t need it.

Intermountain Healthcare’s Dr. Marie Shelton, an osteopathic family practice physician at the Orem Central Clinic, said gardening helps people feel connected and in control at a time when many feel isolated and lacking control.

“You’re able to see something grow, you’re able to help it, nurture it and also kind of control that environment,” she explained.

Shelton said sunshine is a great source of vitamin D, which can benefit someone’s mental health.

Dr. Marie Shelton says watching something grow after tending to a garden, helps people feel like they have control over an environment.

“So by getting out in the sun, they just feel it. They feel better,” she said. “My patients that are deficient in vitamin D have a lack of energy, kind of lack of motivation to do things.”

She said being active outside naturally produces the feel-good hormones.

“Serotonin, dopamine, these things all feed for your energy and for your mood,” she said. “My patients that are actively gardening and outdoors are overall much healthier.”

McGlochlin said gardening helps her live in the present. “We call it moving meditation,” she explained.

Shelton said the repetitive motions in gardening are methodical and can help someone take their mind off things and gives them better perspective.

“It just makes all your problems just kind of float away,” McGlochlin said.

Plus, McGlochlin believes gardening is a safe way to stay physically distanced, but socially connected.

“Even as a group, we can be spaced very far apart,” she said.

The group meets a couple of times a week. For more information, see details about McGlochlin’s group online.

Intermountain Healthcare’s Orem Community Hospital also offers about 50 garden plots to families in the public through an application process each February. If you are interested in participating you can apply for a plot online.

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