Sowing seeds of health

Over the past month, I’ve been busy sowing seeds (mostly indoors) for this upcoming growing season. After recently downsizing from a small farm to an urban setting with space only for container gardening, I’m making the most of what I have – and devoting a fair amount of time to cultivating healthy, nourishing soil, the foundation of growth.

This is a good time, as well, to review the health of our own metaphorical soil, so essential for our minds and our bodies. Increasingly, on this blog as well as in my social media postings, I’ve referenced how our daily behaviors can positively or negatively impact health. While it feels like we’ve all been held hostage during this pandemic, we can still amend our lives with adaptive behavioral responses that also serve to boost our personal resilience.

1. Strengthen basic self-care

This year isn’t the time to take on overly ambitious personal growth goals. So keep it simple. Perhaps focus upon improving your sleep quality (as best you can), or moving a bit each day. This past week on Instagram, I featured information on how to improve sleep, which impacts mood, health, and even food choices. Check out some of these articles about sleep:

https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html

Why sleep is important (American Psychological Association)

http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/getting/overcoming/tips

I’ve also written previously about the under-recognized benefits of movement:

Savor the body in movement

Just this step: Bringing mindfulness to movement

2. Sow seeds of awareness and self-compassion

Call it mindfulness, or attentional training, or the ability to be present: an essential skill is learning how to safely, reliably show up in our bodies – especially when we are engaging with food. Many resources exist, from appetite awareness to intuitive eating and mindful eating training. But the bottom line: learning to pay attention to what we eat and how we eat it, as well as the cues we receive from our bodies, can be tremendously helpful (and healthful). Over the past twenty years, I’ve delved extensively into mindful eating practices (and even recorded exercises that you might find helpful, such as this one). These days, I’m actively exploring how an intimate relationship with food is integral to most cultures – and how those of us who have lost that connection can find our way home.

In addition, “being kind to yourself is a surefire way to improve your mental health and reach your goals, a growing body of work suggests.” A few years ago, I wrote about the benefit of creating a “self-compassionate first aid kit,” as part of a conversation I’d had with my own young daughter.

3. Cultivate a relationship with nature

Finally, because everything at The SAVOR Project is nature-infused, a reminder about the healing benefits of connecting with nature, in its many forms. You may have seen the articles about the boon in gardening during the pandemic. This article, in particular, emphasizes the wellness benefits of gardening for women, especially women of color, who shoulder a majority of the emotional work. You can also check out this review of research on nature exposure (and associated health benefits), or simply begin sowing your own seeds of nature therapy.

Perhaps you might start an indoor window herb garden, buy a low-maintenance houseplant, or commit to some kind of daily encounter with nature, such as a short walk, a guided imagery exercise, or a nature meditation. After our move, I took up birdwatching to counter the pain of social distancing . When I can’t connect with friends, colleagues, and others in my new community, I can engage with local wildlife, even if it’s refilling feeders and learning about these fascinating creatures from afar.

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