Growing Things Makes Me Feel Good! The Therapeutic Value of Cultivation

Growing things, all kinds of things, has become an obsession for me. One normally thinks of growing plants . . . or even animals or children, but how about growing yeast for sourdough or milk cultures for yogurts? These grow too. And there is the same satisfaction of having grown them as when one grows plants. Pride in creation of anything should be considered, I suppose. For example finishing a history paper or shop project, sewing your own clothes, passing an initiative to better your community. Somehow though, helping living things become the best they can be is the most fulfilling of all. So, what is that satisfaction about?

Could it be the little bit of “God the Creator” in us? Since we each view the world from our own personal point-of-view, we each see the world as revolving around ourselves. This is not to say we are all narcissistic. However, we do understand our world best from our own perspective. So when we assist Mother Nature, or God, or the Great Spirit, by setting up the most advantageous conditions for something to grow, we tend to take the credit.

The parenting instinct also comes into play. Even those without children of their own have some nurturing genes in them. You know: protecting something or someone, comforting them, being happy because you make others happy. When you grow things you protect them. One could even say that you comfort them when you provide water, warmth, shade or nutrients. In the end everyone is happy.

Is this feeling really present for everyone? I suppose that some people may not have had examples of nurturing and so do not come by it naturally. But gardening, or “social and therapeutic horticulture” is used in hospitals, prisons and mental institutions to give patients and inmates confidence and self-esteem. Gardening can improve social bonding and develop improved attitudes about personal success in these institutions. More integration with the community, new life skills and a feeling of ownership are also real benefits to the participants. In addition, staff in secure psychiatric hospitals reports increased decision-making and self-control abilities. They say patients have increased confidence, self-esteem and hope.

Aren’t those all wonderful words? “Hope, confidence, self-esteem, community, social bonding, ownership.” They convey some of what I’m trying to describe. I get a feeling of accomplishment, but also a sense of being a part of something larger, that I have a place in the whole scheme of things.

So I have come full circle. I was thinking about the good feelings I get making bread and yogurt or growing plants and sprouts. I am probably obsessing because of the positive rewards I get, not only emotionally, but the stuff I “grow” tastes good, too.

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One Response to Growing Things Makes Me Feel Good! The Therapeutic Value of Cultivation

  1. Roger Murphy says:

    I can totally relate to what you are saying. Although since we moved to a smaller place we don’t have the garden we did, Julia and I enjoy container gardening, growing sprouts and micro veggies. Making ‘kiefer’ is also on the list and we like the health benefits. I have an engineering background and also get a similar satisfaction from making things work with very little of the “right” tools or materials.:)

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