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16 Amazing Ideas for Your Garden Break




We could all greatly benefit from a garden break at least once a day. There's ample scientific evidence linking nature-based activities to an improved experience of physical, emotional, mental, and even spiritual well-being.


Taking a conscious pause, even if just for a few minutes, could help us break a pattern of muscle tension, regain focus on a task, and gain a fresh perspective on a personal or professional challenge we're facing.


For instance, the Attention Restoration Theory (ART) suggests that when we are exposed to elements of nature, we not only enjoy it more but our focus and concentration on our duties and responsibilities also improve.


However, not being certain about where to go and/or what to do during a 5 or 15-minute garden break could result in "wasted time" with activities that don't contribute to our relaxation and/or uplift our spirits.


That's why it's recommended to make a list in advance of hobbies and activities you could engage in for various durations in urban settings you've identified at home or work. These places could range from your home backyard, a public park, or garden, to green areas in or near your office. This way, you can make the most of your available time during your garden break.


If many of the activities you enjoy in your free time already offer numerous health benefits, imagine their potential when combined with nature.


Below are some activities you could undertake during a 5, 15, or 30-minute garden break, and some general benefits they offer. You may need to adapt some of these activities based on location and your daily schedule.


The key is to start cultivating the habit of taking intentional breaks for your well-being.


5-minute Garden Break:


1. Meditate


You can do a short meditation anywhere; with eyes open or closed; guided or on your own. It's an excellent stress-reducing activity that can help you manage your day better and cope with symptoms of some health conditions.


Common benefits reported by meditators include experiencing a sense of calm and inner peace. According to experts from the Mayo Clinic, people who use meditation for relaxation also experience emotional benefits like gaining new perspectives, better focus on the present, reduced negative emotions, increased creativity, and greater patience and tolerance.



2. Observe and Listen



Sit and focus on the trees and plants around you, notice their colors, leaf patterns, contrasts, and textures. If outdoors, try to focus on the sound of the breeze and/or birdsong. If there's a water source or lake nearby, focus on it. Pay attention to the area's plant diversity and, if possible, identify them (plant awareness). Do the same with the local wildlife.


A study from the University of Exeter in the UK found that even if you spend only a few minutes a day in contact with nature, it's the cumulative effect that matters. Two hours a week (120 minutes), whether continuous or broken down into smaller chunks, is the minimum needed to see significant benefits for our physical, emotional, and mental health.


3. Harvest and Create a Floral Arrangement



Take advantage of the flowers growing in your yard. If you don't have any, now is a good time to plan for flower planting, either in garden beds or pots. Flowers elevate our mood and can even make us smile more. Harvesting at the optimal stage can make flowers last longer in a vase. The best times to harvest are mornings due to cooler temperatures and higher plant water content. Use clean, sharp scissors, and ensure the flower stems in the vase are free of leaves to prevent bacterial growth.


4. Feed Wild Birds

If you want to see and enjoy more wild birds in your garden, use one of your breaks to attract them. Add water features and feeders to ensure year-round visits. While it's not always necessary to feed the birds, it's recommended during times when natural food sources are scarce or nonexistent in your area or during extreme temperatures.


Place the drinkers and feeders in safe areas away from predators or domestic animals, preferably under the shade of trees or shrubs. In no time, you'll be using your garden break to observe and listen to the flurry of birds in your yard, watching them bathe, search for food, and gather materials for their nests. This activity will also help you familiarize yourself with local birds, their routines, and species-specific preferences.


Download this birdwatching activity:

BIRDWATCHING- 15 MINUTES
.pdf
Download PDF • 1.71MB


5. Self-Massage



Getting up from the chair to stretch and relax our tense muscles, even for a few minutes, could benefit us greatly while we wait for a massage therapist appointment. Massaging ourselves with lotion, oil, or a manual accessory will help reduce stress; and promote blood flow and oxygenation. Treating ourselves with a self-massage will also make us more aware of our body overall, paying attention to our posture and even our breathing.


According to massage professionals, taking five minutes regularly to focus and massage specific areas of our body will have increasingly effective results over time that will impact our physical, mental, and emotional health.



15 Minute Garden Break:


6. Gardening


Any activity related to plants can be considered a connection with Nature (even if it's taking care of a single pot). You might think that as soon as you consider gardening, it will require several hours under the sun. Not always. If all you have is 15 minutes or less, you can still adjust the activity and reap its benefits, like being present in the moment, gaining focus and attention; practicing your motor coordination; strengthening your memory as well and nurturing your creativity and sense of hope.


Some gardening activities you could do during this time might be preparing seedlings; pruning a small shrub or a couple of potted plants; and checking and watering potted plants. You could also transplant to a larger pot or hand-weed in a small area of your yard or planter.


Remember that the activity is meant to relax you, and when the set time is up, you should return to your paused tasks. Celebrate what you did and look forward to doing it again in a future session.


7. Cleaning Pots and Planting Containers


Cleaning our gardening tools and planting containers is part of our responsibilities. But sometimes it's pertinent to separate them from other gardening activities. We can use some minutes of our garden break to get ahead on this task. Even if it's just one or two pots. I assure you, when you go to plant, you'll feel even better and proud of your wise decision because you won't have to delay the gratification of your gardening project.


Depending on the material, size, and condition of the planting containers, you'll see if you can start and finish cleaning in a short time or if you'll need to split the task. For instance, plastic pots under 10 inches can be easily cleaned.


However, terracotta pots might need a bit more time soaking in water to soften the adhered soil and minerals, then scrubbed with a brush. Yes, it sounds like work, but trust me, being in contact with water and focusing solely on this task has emotional rewards.


To make the experience easier, shake out the pots you want to clean. Place them in a container full of water and add some white vinegar. Leave for about 10 minutes, then scrub with a semi-stiff brush, rinse, and let dry. You can also leave them in the water for longer and come back the next day to just scrub and rinse.


If you only have time to wash one container, that's still better than needing a clean pot and not having one ready. In a future garden break, you'll realize it was the best decision.


8. Handwritten Note


Handwriting, especially if it's a note for a loved one (birthday card, anniversary, thank you) or an entry in our nature journal, gives us the opportunity to think better about the message; practice our focus skills, and, of course, use our fine and gross motor skills.


When we send a note by postal mail, the recipient will appreciate the special and unique gesture. I assure you they'll let you know with a text, email, or similar.


This activity, which you can do in less than 15 minutes (if it's a short note), will further strengthen our relationships and communication lines. Handwriting remains an accessible activity that we can do anywhere, and we might feel even more inspired if we do it immersed in a green space.


9. Phone Call


According to a Gallup survey, people under 50 send more texts to communicate than make phone calls. Yes, sometimes it's more convenient and comfortable to communicate by email or instant messaging. Maybe we prefer not to call because we don't want to be imprudent and "disturb the other person". But that's just another excuse.


Remember, the person receiving the call always has the option to answer or send the call to voicemail if they can't attend to you during your free time.


Personal conversation (via telephone and/or video conference) remains a powerful tool that allows us to strengthen relationships with our loved ones as well as professional relationships, especially when we're separated by distance or isolated due to uncontrollable circumstances.


Through a phone conversation, we can also detect the mood of the other person and provide support if needed. If you're just calling to say hello and for a quick update, go ahead and let them know that you only have 15 minutes to talk, but that later you could go deeper into any subject that arises and requires more time. This way, you make the other person aware, and you don't feel bad about having to end abruptly. Give it a try and call someone on your next Garden Break!


10. Listen to Podcasts


The advantage of podcasts is that there's enriching content that could fit the time you have available. You might even listen to an episode and meditate in the process in an outdoor space. Triple benefit.


For many people, the format of a podcast allows them to absorb new information much better, and in a short time, than if they had to read a book. Plus, it's a great way to rest your eyes without adding more visual stress than your daily responsibilities already demand. Listening to content in this format could also lift your mood since you're aware you're learning something new.


30 Minute Garden Break:


11. Coloring


Coloring books can help reduce stress. Those featuring striking mandala, flower, and animal designs are great for momentarily setting aside our personal concerns. Coloring is an activity that can be done anywhere if we have a flat surface to support our coloring book.


According to specialists from the Cleveland Clinic, it's a great way to cultivate our artistic skills. If it was an activity we enjoyed as children, there's a high probability we will also enjoy it as adults.


Coloring or painting helps us refocus our attention. Instead of focusing on our problems, we begin to direct our attention to the illustration we're trying to color, thus relieving our muscle tension, and giving our executive functions (analysis, decision-making) a break. Coloring is a manual activity that makes us feel at peace and helps us practice self-compassion. If we color outside the lines, everything will still be okay.


Download this coloring activity:

COLORING- 5 MINUTES
.pdf
Download PDF • 1.17MB

12. Reading a Printed Book


Although I have already read several digital books, nothing compares to the feeling of holding a printed book; flipping and feeling its pages; smelling its ink. Immediate benefits include maintaining better focus and attention on the narrative, as we don't have the distractions of a computer or common app alerts on mobile devices.


With a printed book, we don't need to worry about recharging batteries and, even less, about the book cover getting wet (an additional stress if it were our phone).


Moreover, with a printed book, it's easier to visualize and experience progress. As we turn the pages, we can observe and track where we are and how much more we have left to read.


13. Walking and Exploring the Surroundings


In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, college students who walked for 45 minutes in an arboretum (a botanical garden dedicated to trees and woody plants) performed 20% better in tests conducted after the walk than those students who walked the same amount of time near a busy street.


Other scientific studies indicate that walking 30 minutes or more, once a week, in a green space such as a garden or park, could help reduce our blood pressure.


In addition to promoting our physical activity, walking outdoors provides us with increased oxygenation, boosts our vitamin D levels, improves our long-distance vision, and strengthens our immune system.


Trees and plants produce phytoncides, which are chemical compounds that when inhaled offer therapeutic benefits, helping us feel more relaxed. The greater the density of trees and plants in the area where we are walking, the higher the potential for our cognitive faculties to rest and experience fewer negative thoughts.


So, take advantage of your next garden break to walk and explore the neighborhood or the vicinity of your workplace in search of nearby parks and gardens. It's an excellent activity to distract yourself, discover new places, and return to your daily routine with renewed energy.


14. Preparing Tea or Infusion


Consuming teas and other herbal beverages is linked to reducing heart disease, managing type 2 diabetes, and delaying the loss of some cognitive abilities associated with aging.


Likewise, consuming a variety of teas and infusions could help reduce stress, calm our nerves, and rest better.


But the process of preparing a tea or infusion can also assist in our intent to pause and take a break from the work routine or distract ourselves from an unpleasant situation.


For example, if we have edible herbs and plants on our patio or balcony, we could use the garden break to go out and harvest fresh leaves, flowers, and stems (used for infusions) and then prepare a delicious beverage, hot or cold, that we can enjoy while observing the surrounding nature. Benefits all around.


15. Crafts


Among the benefits of practicing crafts, such as knitting, painting, and ceramics, are reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, decreasing feelings of loneliness, and even reducing the risk of developing a dementia condition. Through crafting, we use all our senses, engage, and strive to start and finish "something" whose satisfactory result we have eagerly anticipated.


Also, the process of crafting can have meditative qualities for many people, providing focus and attention to the task, making it a perfect activity for temporary distraction from stressful situations and contributing to our mental and emotional health.


Download this handcrafting activity:



PAPERWEIGHT- 30 MINUTES
.pdf
Download PDF • 1.12MB


16. Playing a Musical Instrument

Scientific studies have shown that learning and practicing a musical instrument helps keep the brain sharp, alert, and with better reaction time—a faculty that diminishes with age.


Playing a musical instrument also aids our verbal memory and spatial reasoning. Additionally, among other benefits, it improves our mood, we tend to smile more, and we can better differentiate between numerous sounds.









Sources:


White, M.P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J. et al. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and well-being. Sci Rep 9, 7730 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3



*For the Spanish version of this article, click here: 16 ideas para tu #GardenBreak

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The author is the founder of Agrochic.com and is certified in Horticultural Therapy by the Chicago Botanic Garden.



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