Partner Post: Got a Garden? 3 Ways to Make the Most of It

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It might not necessarily seem like the most obvious point in the world, but if you have a garden, you are pretty much blessed, and should by no means take it for granted or let it go to waste.

For the bulk of human history, people worked the land out of necessity, not out of any kind of choice, luxury, or leisure interest. Also for the bulk of human history, the average person didn’t own much in the way of property, and would scarcely have had the luxury of being able to attend to and appreciate their own patch of greenery, for purposes other than subsistence farming.

These days, a large number of us have our own garden space available, but plenty don’t, including the vast majority of citydwellers. And yet, many gardens do indeed go to waste, simply as a consequence of the fact that people routinely feel too distracted to make proper use of them.

If you find that you use all your free time surfing the web, watching TV, and otherwise neglecting that patch of the great outdoors that exists on your own property, it’s time to switch things up a bit and step outside.

Whether your garden is a high-tech paradise of sorts, complete with automatically opening roof patio, or whether it’s a fairly modest patch of soil and grass, here are some things you can do with it other than just guiltily glancing out at it every once in a while.

Use it as an outdoor arts and crafts studio

Cal Newport’s recent book, “Digital Minimalism,” does a pretty good and convincing job of arguing that in the midst of the digital age that we all currently find ourselves in at this exact moment – we are faced by the real and ongoing risk of distracting ourselves out of all productivity, and focus.

Among other things, the author cites research to argue that the more we engage in low-attention-requirement “shallow” activities, such as perpetual web surfing, the more we condition our minds to handle only bite-size snippets of information.

Apparently, brain scans reveal that people who make a habit of “multitasking” a lot, or who otherwise are just generally highly distracted, experience structural changes in the brain which make it much more difficult for them to focus for a prolonged period of time on any complex task.

In fact, it’s been suggested that the effects of constant digital distraction essentially induces a state of ADHD in people, given enough time and stimulus.

One of the key solutions to this problem that Newport comes to is what he calls “high-quality leisure.” Essentially, “high-quality leisure” refers to the kinds of things your grandparents might have done for relaxation and entertainment. Things that take place in the physical world, and that require a good deal of focused attention and time.

If “decluttering” your mind, and improving your ability to focus sounds tempting – not to mention also reconnecting with the world around you in a way that your ancestors would have realised and likely appreciated – why not use your garden as an outdoor arts and crafts studio?

Not only do you get to benefit from having some fresh air and sunshine, but you can be productive simultaneously, whether that means working on a painting, or assembling a bookcase or chair from scratch.

Of course, this kind of depends on the climate of your region. If things are generally quite temperate, warm, and rainstorms are quite rare, there’s no reason why you can’t make this a fundamental reality of your everyday life.

Of course, if and when the rainstorms do actually appear, you should have a backup shed to store your projects in.

Set up some garden furniture, and turn your garden into an outdoor dining room

Food is so hyper-available these days, to most of us living in the developed world, that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that for the vast majority of human history, people were literally fighting tooth and nail in order to secure their next meal.

Far from paying proper respect and homage to the food that finds its way onto our plates, a large proportion of us eat carelessly and mindlessly, in front of the TV, or in front of the computer, or just sitting in bed with the newspaper.

If you’re religious, saying grace before tucking into a meal certainly goes a good way towards redeveloping a more mindful connection to what you’re eating.

But why not make mealtimes as special and “natural” as possible? Again, assuming the weather is suited to it, why not set up some garden furniture, take your meals outside, and dine in the open air, with the sounds of birds and bees in the background, just as people have done for ages?

A good deal of research actually indicates that people who spend more time outside, in nature, experience better overall health and mood scores than people who are more indoor-focused, or urban. There’s no reason to think this doesn’t extend to mealtime, as well.

Get a reclining chair or hammock in place, and catch up on your reading

When was the last time you just cast aside your worries for the day, and let yourself relax with a good book, as your imagination carried you away to strange new lands that you had never dreamt of before?

A lot of people, unfortunately, do little if any recreational reading after leaving school. But reading a good book is an excellent way of slowing the pace of life, allowing stress to melt away, and allowing your imagination to do some work, rather than just the creative vision of assorted directors and actors.
Of course, there are few if any places better suited to do some leisurely reading in than your own garden. Simply get a reclining outdoor chair, or a hammock, and you’re all set. Spend a lazy afternoon – or even a whole weekend – curled up with a good book in your garden.

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