Last year my husband wrote a blog post that somehow, someway got lost in the shuffle of computer cyberspace and forgotten about. We found a hard copy that had been printed, tucked in a drawer recently, so I wanted to re-type it and send it out this week. I clearly understand that not only did this post miss the deadline for last year at daylight savings time, but it is also late for this year. I beg your forgiveness and ask for mercy in the timing portion, so grant patience – but the application of the content is still powerful. Travel back in time in your mind’s eye to springtime daylight savings on Sunday, March 13th, 2016.
This is from my husband Steve:
Gardening is a passion for so many people. I can only imagine what’s beginning to stir their hearts as the weather begins to warm up. I’m making these notes in early Spring. All next week the temperature is supposed to be in the 50’s and 60’s and this weekend it truly becomes official; the time changes.
When my wife heard that the other day, the first thing she said was, “I’ve got to get in my gardens. I swear she said it three times over and over as she started to get that look in her eye. “Spring forward” even sounds more dynamic and exciting than “Fall back”, and as busy as she is she will make time for flowers and herbs and all her vegetables. Speaking of looks in her eye, believe me, it’s not a good time or place to be a weed or vole, or any other creature that threatens her plants. That little woman can flat out wage war in her gardens.
I guess we are all that way towards the things we’re passionate about and I’m there to support her in any way that I can, because we are both deeply concerned about our own diets and the crippling impact our eating habits are having on our families, American culture and healthcare system. I can get passionately behind all of that, but I’m definitely on the outside looking in when it comes to the simple pure joy of getting your hands in rich dirt and working to plant. I love that about all you gardeners, and the beautiful things you grow. You don’t have to love plants to deeply appreciate those who grow them. Any man who has bought flowers to express his affection or maybe to help him out of the doghouse knows what I’m talking about. From the corner flower shop to large public botanical gardens, to apartment patios; from yards beautifully landscaped to the window sills in your home—you’re all responding to a giftedness as old as man; a primal, joyful impulse to plant; to cultivate and grow.
In her beautifully done book, In Search of Paradise, author Penelope Hobhouse researched the history of gardening and she wrote, “The story of garden design threads together four thousand years of cultural history and personal vision. Throughout history gardens have been refuges and sanctuaries; records tell of their abundance, comfort and beauty. From the oldest known gardens, to the most recent designs, garden making has offered evidence of humankind’s ongoing search for paradise.”
Now, you probably haven’t analyzed that growing a tomato, a carrot or a petunia would go quite that deep, and while I bet she’s probably on to something, you don’t have to go there to appreciate where I’m heading with all this garden talk. You see, we are all gardeners at heart, because each one of us cultivates an intensely personal internal garden; the garden of our minds.
When we consider the idea of our minds, we all understand that to be the home of all our thoughts. Because we can’t touch it, see it or physically walk through the garden of our minds, we can tend to marginalize it, but it is just as real as any garden in the world and this garden has a most profound impact on every area of our lives. I can think of no better analogy for the human mind than the vegetable gardens we plant every year. We all know that we are what we eat; well it is just as true that we are what we think.
I’ve said this before, but it is so foundational that it bears repeating; your mind is who you are; it is incredibly fertile ground and it will grow anything and everything planted there. I can’t over emphasize the truth and power of that fact.
Google the question “how many thoughts does the average person think every day?” The lowest number I found was 12,000 and the highest was 70,000. Just average that out and it comes to a whopping 40,000 thoughts each day. Think of each though as a seed with the potential to be planted in the most fertile soil on earth – the garden of your mind.
Every day, in a stream of consciousness, 40,000 thoughts flow through our mind. We entertain them; reject them or allow them to be planted and they become rooted in our spiritual DNA; encoded deeply into who we are. The implications of that are enormous. Our thoughts say a lot about who we are and who we will become due to one of the most powerful laws in the universe – the law of sowing and reaping. As surely as the sun follows the moon, you and I will reap the full harvest of every thought planted in the fertile garden of our minds.
In flower gardens, if you plant a rose you’re going to grow blooming roses. If you plant tulips, every Spring you’re going to enjoy tulips. If you plant tomato seeds, you won’t harvest carrots. You will raise and harvest exactly what you plant. So think deeply for a moment about the types of thoughts we plant in the garden of our minds; thoughts and seeds of joy, peace and tenderness; seeds of courage, honor and wisdom. We plant seeds of empathy, forgiveness and love, but we also think and plant seeds of bitterness, revenge or indifference; seeds of resentment, self-pity or hopeless despair. These seeds are guaranteed to grow and mature to affect our work, play and every relationship in our lives.
Sowing and Reaping
In your mind’s eye cast your vision across the span of human activity covering the globe today and you will be witnessing the harvest of all the thoughts of mankind. We reap what we think and our harvest is revealed in every decision we make, every word we speak, even every movement of our body language. Our thoughts are at the root of every action and reaction, in every moment of every day of our lives.
The more deeply I engage in this whole thought process, the more stunned I am at the implications, and I am going to explore. If you too continue to explore your thoughts, I guarantee it is a process that an profoundly change and deeply enrich all of our lives; and what an excellent time to do it. If you are a gardener, I know you; I’m married to one. It’s Spring and you’re getting excited. Whether you’re urban, suburban or rural, you love flowers, vegetables, berries and fruit trees. You love picket fences, stone walls, bird houses and fountains of water. You are keenly aware of the feel of the warm sun, the sound of birds singing and the bees buzzing. Like a moth to a flame, you’re drawn to the sights and the scent of life in the garden. As you enjoy working in your garden this Spring and Summer, let’s also turn or hearts and our thoughts to another fertile place of incredible hope and promise – the garden of our minds.
Let’s begin to stop taking that garden for granted and think deeply about who a loving God has created us to be and imagine all that could be planted in the fertile garden of our minds and harvested in our lives during the growing season to come. It will take hard work, including the diligence of weeding, fertilizing, watering and pruning on our way to an abundant harvest.
When you fly on an airplane, the flight attendant always gives the familiar instruction “in case of an emergency, put on your oxygen mask on first, before helping others”. Why is this an important rule for ensuring survival? Because if you run out of oxygen, you can’t help anyone else.
What does this have to do with “fruit-bearing relationships”?
We are all caretakers in some form or another. You may have young children to take care of, teenagers to nurture, special needs family members, aging parents to look after or friends and extended family needing extra time and encouragement. Added to these needs there is the requirements of everyday life; groceries, laundry, work, bills, school, church – the list can go on and on.
It’s easy to spend much of your time and energy taking care of everything and everyone else but neglecting yourself. ( I understand the blessings and benefits of putting others before ourselves and the concept of self-sacrifice and will write about this later). But, if we are sick or exhausted physically, mentally or emotionally, the relationships around us can suffer greatly. I know in my own life, the relationship that can often end up lost in the shuffle due to little time and energy left, is between my husband and I. This is the relationship that needs to bear fruit so that we are working together in unity in all these other areas. I need to have the peace and energy leftover to share together with him.
Consequences of Being Over-Extended
Being too busy or stressed personally not only impacts close relationships, but this busyness can also greatly affect your physical health. When you feel over-extended you can experience burnout, stress, fatigue, reduced mental effectiveness, depression, over eating, headaches, emotional swings, anxiety, frustration, and inability to sleep. All of these can negatively affect your health and could lead to more serious health problems if not addressed.
Basic Stress and Health Tips
I started to research other sites as well as books and magazines and found some very generic suggestions to help combat these negative health side effects of stress and busyness.
A “put on your own oxygen mask” sort of list:
Get enough rest
Have physicals regularly and go to the doctor when you need treatment
Spend time every day on a renewal activity ~ sit quietly at least 10 minutes and:
Buy a joke of the day calendar (I loved Barbara Johnson)
Watch a funny T.V. show or movie
Focusing on Rest and Renewal
On WellStone Gardens homepage, there are four main fields of wellness…
Nutrition: Food is Medicine, Fitness: Be as Strong as You Can Be, Recreation: Rest, Renew, Recharge, Inspiration: Everyday a New Beginning
All of these areas were mentioned in some form or other in my extended search for this post, but I think this concept of personal rest and renewal is most often neglected.
Anytime I have an opportunity to teach or instruct in person, I love to try to incorporate as many senses as possible (see it, hear it, taste it, touch it, do it….). In “teacher school” we are taught this type of instruction allows for the variety learning styles in any given classroom. This is the way I learn best, (I am a tactile-kinesthetic learner). In my experience, I have found that no matter what the age, everyone seems to retain information better the more involved they are. I know it may seem that I am going down a rabbit trail here for a minute, but stick with me.
A Method you may not have ‘heard’ of ~ The Impact of Sound
Years ago, I was an instructor in an inner-city alternative high school teaching Healthy Lifestyle Choices. I had the opportunity to attend a National Science Teachers Convention and was introduced to information dealing with music being played in classrooms specifically at 60-70 beats per minute.
Research at that time was showing the idea of the “Mozart effect” – that listening to Mozart’s music can make the brain work better – originated from a study carried out in 1993 at the University of California by researchers GordonShaw and Frances Rauscher.
Recent research by OnlineCollege.org, has found that high-anxiety students who listen to classical music with 60 to 70 beats per minute while they study, score 12% more in their maths exams on average. See more…
Several years later, when working with our youngest son who had severe dyslexia, I was introduced to a program called FastForward which worked with sound and frequency and the effect it can have on the brain. I was trained by a school district in this program and I the found research and impact over a wide range of age groups and conditions fascinating. As we worked through this program for a couple of years, we experienced remarkable results with our son over an extended period of time.
I am convinced that sound (music) can positively impact our brains and our overall health. When we are personally needing to renew and recharge so that we have something left to pour into relationships that can bear fruit, music (the sense of sound, and the feeling of vibrations) can be rejuvenating for our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. I recently came across a new program, Wholetones, that I am very curious about and I want to try. I’m sharing the link with you, and will let you know more as I use it. (There is much, much more research in this area out there).
Time Well Spent
One of the biggest issues in this area of rest and renewal can be finding the personal time for it. We’ve all used the expression “I’ll make time for this” or “I need to make time for that.” Our pastor shared in a sermon once that there is no physical way to “make time”. We are only able to “spend time”. Spending time (this requires a personal decision and commitment) refreshing yourself for at least 10 -20 minutes may be the best way for you to “put on your oxygen mask” so that you can more fully enjoy and engage in fruitful relationships. I want to leave you with this song that seems to always encourage me and reminds me to slow down for just a minute and breathe deep.
Experience shows me that gardening requires planning, tools and equipment, seeds, plants, good soil, fertilizer, weeding, digging, diligently watching for pests and disease, and expert advice from others. As we continue to use the metaphor of comparing our mind as a “garden” I wanted to “dig deeper” scientifically into the health benefits of the thoughts we think.
Occasionally I am asked to speak for women’s groups on a variety of subjects. During one particular Fall season, I was asked to speak on thanksgiving and gratitude. I started my research by first getting a definition of the two words. (As I research experts in the field, they too started with a definition).
Webster’s dictionary: thankful ~ “feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative.”
gratitude: ~ “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”
Thankfulness and gratitude are linked to overall happiness and are cultivated in our minds. We as humans have the capacity and ability to choose to be thankful and grateful in spite of our circumstances and surroundings. Just like being intentional in planting, weeding, and fertilizing an outside garden, the garden of our minds requires the same kind of diligence and intentionality.
Why This Is Important
The incredible amount of research being dedicated to the health benefits of thankfulness and gratitude is astounding. You can search for yourself by looking up “The Science of Gratitude” or “The Science of Happiness”. Again, I am not a doctor, but this research is very extensive and convicting. Benefits include:
Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure;
Higher levels of positive emotions;
More joy, optimism, and happiness;
Acting with more generosity and compassion;
Feeling less lonely and isolated.
Take your gratitude quiz from Berkeley University here
Dr. Robert Emmons, is one of the foremost authorities on the topic in America… gratitude power
Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, head of the division of biologic psychology at Duke University Medical Center:
“If [thankfulness] were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system,”
“While the act of being thankful is not a substitute for a proper medical diagnosis and treatment, it’s certainly a strategy that can be used to enhance wellness.”
“Studies have shown measurable effects on multiple body and brain systems. Those include mood neurotransmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine), reproductive hormones (testosterone), social bonding hormones (oxytocin), cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters (dopamine), inflammatory and immune systems (cytokines), stress hormones (cortisol), cardiac and EEG rhythms, blood pressure, and blood sugar.”
Renee Jain, certified coach of positive psychology “When my coaching clients ask me why gratitude exercises work, I let them know that humans have something called a negativity bias where ‘bad stuff’ in our life outweighs the good by a measure of about 3:1,”
There’s no wrong way to keep a gratitude journal, but here are some general instructions as you get started.
15 minutes per day, at least once per week for at least two weeks. (Studies suggest three times per week might actually have a greater impact on our happiness than journaling every day.)
Write down up to five things for which you feel grateful. The physical record is important—don’t just do this exercise in your head. The things you list can be relatively small in importance (“The tasty sandwich I had for lunch today.”) or relatively large (“My sister gave birth to a healthy baby boy.”). The goal of the exercise is to remember a good event, experience, person, or thing in your life—then enjoy the good emotions that come with it.
As you write, here are nine important tips:
Be as specific as possible—specificity is key to fostering gratitude. “I’m grateful that my co-workers brought me soup when I was sick on Tuesday” will be more effective than “I’m grateful for my co-workers.”
Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular person or thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
Try subtraction, not just addition. Consider what your life would be like without certain people or things, rather than just tallying up all the good stuff. Be grateful for the negative outcomes you avoided, escaped, prevented, or turned into something positive—try not to take that good fortune for granted.
See good things as “gifts.” Thinking of the good things in your life as gifts guards against taking them for granted. Try to relish and savor the gifts you’ve received.
Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
Revise if you repeat. Writing about some of the same people and things is OK, but zero in on a different aspect in detail.
Write regularly. Whether you write every other day or once a week, commit to a regular time to journal, then honor that commitment. But…
Don’t overdo it. Evidence suggests writing occasionally (1-3 times per week) is more beneficial than daily journaling. That might be because we adapt to positive events and can soon become numb to them—that’s why it helps to savor surprises.
It is in your best interest for overall health to focus on The Garden of Your Mind with much care and focus. Scripture fully supports what scientific research is saying. One of my favorite verses is 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 “Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
– this statement is printed on my cardboard box of Jiffy peat pots I had shipped to start my garden seeds in. I am literally sitting here at my kitchen table and I looked out the door with the words on this box in front of me. I can’t think of a better saying to build a post around dealing with relationships. This month we have focused on a garden theme and how these themes impact our health.
We started with “New Life in the Spring” and concrete ways to grow your own produce. I then touched on “The Garden of our Gut”, and the importance of growing a healthy gut biome. Our third post dealt with “The Garden of our Mind” and the impact our thoughts can have on our physical health and wellness.
The Longest Relationship Research Study Ever Done
This post targets the deeper meaning of planting and harvesting healthy relationships and the role they play in our health over a lifetime.
My husband really enjoys “TED Talks”, and my friend sent me this video to watch. This video is a little over twelve minutes, but the impact of this very real research is astounding. The title is “What Makes a Good Life?” and his opening question is “What makes us healthy and happy as we go through life?” Please watch, as I cannot explain this research with the ease and expertise of Robert Waldinger.
What If ?
I love watching the real stories of this research, but what about your story? I began thinking through my life and the relationships I have. I have had ups and downs; good and not so good – but overall, I have been completely blessed. My mind quickly went to people I have had contact with or have read about who have not had a life of great relationships. What if there are horrific circumstances of children sold into sex trafficking, or a lifetime of any variety of neglect or abuse? What if people are isolated or lonely (even in a room full of people)? What if depression or any number of blocks prevent relationship? What answer for health and happiness can we look for here?
In my own mind and heart, I can only find one answer. During this incredible Easter season, it is the answer I have always clung to – the answer of Jesus Christ. His story is the ultimate relationship that can always be there in any place, at all times, all over the world. This relationship is full of love and hope and breaks through pain and loneliness. This relationship is always with us because we carry it inside us and it goes with us into eternity, forever. This relationship heals all wounds through forgiveness, mercy and grace. When this relationship is right, then all other relationships are just “gravy” or “icing on the cake”. God is relational and He built us to be relational. Our spiritual health does impact our physical health. I encourage you to focus on this relationship with Jesus this Easter. The story of Jesus is all about sowing and reaping; planting and harvesting – and bearing fruit in our relationships. Grow this garden well. Be blessed and have a very Happy Easter!
Of all the creatures on our wonderful planet, we humans have the unique ability to contemplate and think deeply about our lives and circumstances. We have the ability to ask ourselves questions like “why am I here?” or “how can I better myself or impact others in a positive way?” We have opportunities to to share our failures and successes to better equip and encourage others when they are struggling.
To continue with our Springtime garden theme, I would like to share a beautiful analogy of planting and harvesting. My husband often talks about the mind and the heart and the importance they play in our physical, emotional and spiritual health and well-being. He has shared many times that our minds are very fertile ground and that they will grow whatever is planted there.
The process I am continuing to work through– learning technology and social media has truly stretched me out of my comfort zone… see “Chaos” for some background here. This desire of wanting to stay in our “comfort zones” can slow us down or even prevent us from pushing through and striving for change in many areas, but especially in the areas of diet, exercise, recreation and inspiration. These are the areas that can have a large impact of our overall health.
Let’s just click out of that, and start over
The same dear friend (Janice Nastav) that I wrote about in “Chaos” has given me the inspiration for this post. She has been patiently talking me through steps over the phone of what others may understand as basic website and computer skills. Whenever I am confused or unable to complete whatever she is trying to teach me, she will gently say, “Let’s just click out of that, and start over.” There are times I just want to give up, or shut down for the day and try again later. She encourages me to stick with it and continue again and again until I master the task at hand.
Worry is a weed
I giggle now every time I catch myself going to a place in my mind with my own thoughts that are negative and I apply the gentle words, “Let’s just click out of that, and start over”. I am becoming more and more aware of when I am filled with worry or anxiety. I can physically feel how that changes my stress level or creates a sense of being overwhelmed. I can use this garden analogy and understand that I have the ability to see that as a “weed” in my mind and know that I have the ability to pull that “weed”.
A seed is a start-over
I can literally just “click out of that, and start over”. I can replant new seeds and fertilize them with thankfulness and gratitude; hope, faith and encouragement. This may be a cute anecdotal story, but is there any real scientific research to back up this truth and the impact it has on our health? Yes there is.
Dr. Caroline Leaf (yes, ‘Leaf’) is a cognitive neuroscientist with a PhD in Communication Pathology specializing in Neuropsychology. Since the early 1980’s she has studied and researched the Mind-Brain connection. She has written several wonderful books as well as many you tube videos on how negative thoughts can actually be toxic how it is possible to remove them. Our thoughts have a very real impact on our physical health.
This also relates well to our post The Garden of Our Gut which deals specifically with the Brain-Gut connection.
I will continue to check in and expound on all of our Garden themes through this growing season and into harvest time. Now is the time for planting. Choose your seeds well and diligently pull those weeds.
Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. It always seems full of new energy, new hope and promise. I love the beautiful sounds of the birds and smell of fresh air that jog childhood memories of Spring. Today I heard my first turtle dove and I saw a majestic bald eagle flying near our home! I was so excited to see it that I stopped in the middle of the road just to watch it. There is a wonderful sense of new life in the Spring with the daffodils and tulips breaking through the ground and trees budding into bright colors. With every warm day we see our honeybees out flying around. Our neighbors chickens are exploring everywhere searching for bugs and are back to laying an abundance of eggs.
Grow Your Own – THE TIME IS NOW
Vegetables, herbs and fruits are a vital part to good nutrition. With the rising costs of healthy food options, growing your own may be an alternative for you. In addition to the obvious notion of eating your produce, there are the added health benefits of working outside (exercise is essential to health) and the enjoyment of reveling in the beauty of nature (recreation – Re – Creation; new life and freshness for you mind, emotions and spirit).
Part of our passion is to give you resources and to cheer you on into this area of gardening. If gardening is an interest to you – now is the time to begin. We have tried a variety of gardening techniques and one of the books we love is “All New Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Barthelomew.
This year we have launched a new construction project of putting up a small greenhouse (10’ x 12’) in order to extend our growing season and to attempt the possibilities of hydroponic gardening with a tank of Tilapia. This is totally a work in progress, but we wanted to bring you along on our journey. We were blessed to have our neighbors, Bill and Tarey Shipley, join us in this endeavor so we split the costs and the effort. We want to encourage you by giving you the resources we found so that you may be inspired.
Regardless of whether you grow you own or not, our challenge to you is to eat and/or drink as many veggies as you can each day. A great place to start is to drink a smoothie everyday making sure it is comprised with 50% vegetable (organic spinach or kale are a great place to start). You can find an easy smoothie recipe option that can be adapted to your personal tastes here.
When it comes to vital health and wellness, we believe it is best to be pro-active and focus on prevention of illness and disease whenever possible, so that you can more fully enjoy quality of life, not just quantity of years. Our challenge for you is to examine areas of your life that may be negatively affecting your health now or potentially in the future, and commit to making small changes.
We want to offer encouragement by giving you suggested resources that can help turn your health around. Remember we are all “under construction” and there are always opportunities for “new life in the Spring”.