There are two kinds of forests on the planet. Natural forests and man-made jungles of concrete. This concrete ‘wilderness’ of tall buildings, busy roads, and never-ending highways comprise our world today, where we wake up every day to achieve our dreams and live lives of comfort and convenience. We accomplish this and more, however, at the cost of our wellbeing. If we’d look at the increasing number of people with stress, depression, and other psychosomatic ailments, we’d realise how much we need nature to heal our invisible wounds. A proverbial therapist, nature is a place that revives tired minds with its healing touch—through clean air, a quiet environment, the flora and the fauna.
No wonder, we don’t mind giving up the comfortable life of the city just to spend time in the countryside or in the woods, without the conveniences of our homes. The need to unwind and restore inner peace has become a primary need because the world we live in is dramatically different from the one our forefathers lived in.
Interacting with nature—walking barefoot on damp grass, soaking in the morning sun, breathing in the cool fresh air and listening to the sounds of chirping birds—is inarguably the greatest source of calm and peace. Since our worldly responsibilities and aspirations keep us from nature, a conscious effort to bring nature closer home could do the trick.
In the concrete jungles we live in, the closest substitute to nature is gardening. Whether one lives in a penthouse or a villa, one can build a garden of one’s choice. Be it Pineapple Lily orchids on a patio or a vegetable garden in the backyard, a garden can help people reconnect with nature and reap its therapeutic benefits. All it takes is a dedication to set up the garden and look after it. Nature does the rest in its mysterious ways.
To understand the benefits of gardening, let’s take a flight into space, where people have to work under difficult conditions. Up there, away from nature and its earthbound creations, there is no room for error in judgment. Yet, a lack of natural stimuli can depress or tire out humans leading to complications. Research conducted by NASA’s Behavioral Health and Performance team showed the importance of having some green in the extreme conditions of space. It also said humans can’t survive without nature, even in the safest of spacesuits or space stations. So astronauts were given seeds and plants to keep them happy, calm, and productive. Result? Today, every astronaut is a space gardener. Mike Foale, an astronaut from the ISS Expedition 8 said he used to look at his plants after waking up at the station every day “for about 10 to 15 minutes. It was a moment of quiet time.” Peggy Whitson, a biochemist who went to space too, described the feeling of having a plant in space as “dramatic”, in one of her letters from the space station.