Today's post is by my friend and guest blogger, Shawna Coronado. Little did I know, when I met Shawna only a few months ago on Twitter, her story would be so perfect for a new campaign I was working. With all the cutbacks and reduced media exposure these days to gardening, I embarked on a mission to be a champion for the cause. With apologies to Michael Pollan, I wanted to entitle my campaign; "In Defense of Gardening", but for now, I'm calling it "Why Gardening is Important".
Part of what makes this popular pastime so vital to millions, is the health benefits derived from it. We all know what we get out of it personally as it relates to stress reduction and a bit of exercise, but countless studies worldwide, support just how important the act of gardening really is in so many ways, well beyond simply what we do as a hobby.
So today, I introduce you to Shawna, and her story of how gardening literally may have saved her young life:
Over 10 years ago, I was very ill of health. A single Mom, I had endometriosis, combined with stress, lack of outdoor exposure, poor eating habits, severe allergies, high blood pressure, asthma, sugar and chemical sensitivities. This escalated to severe upper respiratory problems. I was always sick with bronchitis triggered by allergies as well as non-stop woman issues such as yeast and bacterial infections, and I frequently suffered migraines and head and back pain.
All these things and many other pressures began to build in my life. Before I knew it I looked like a skeletal stick figure and weighed only 96 pounds. My back would go out often and I would be left unable to walk for days or even a week at a time. I worked and came home and rarely went out doors. At one point I took over a dozen prescriptions a day just to survive. It was a grim existence.
One day a surprising thing happened that changed my life; I got the genius idea to build a garden on the city easement area around my front mail box. That experience was the beginning of an incredible journey for me both emotionally and physically. It was a revelation and within a few years, “down-sized” my career, became a professional garden designer and full-time writer. I feel better and look better than I ever have – I am thirty pounds heavier than I was ten years ago, but I look healthy and feel well. It is still necessary for me to take prescriptions, but now I only take three per day instead of over a dozen.
Many gardens later, I am still gardening heartily. As I became exposed to the outdoors and increased my physical activity, I started feeling relief with all my health ailments. Better diet, exercise, and outdoor exposure truly helped me to recover and feel as if I am alive again. Although far from perfect, it was such a tremendous change that I still feel it could be called “a miracle.” Building my health back through gardening had become such an amazing experience for me that in 2008 I wrote and published "Gardening Nude", a book about better health through environmental exposure and greening.
Gardening and green lifestyle living helps me cope with stress better and in-turn it also helps my body tolerate my allergies and other conditions as well. I make time for the outdoors, and even more important to my plan, I make time for community. Building a healthier community, particularly in the gardening world, is a fantastic prelude to expanding your soul. Meeting people who live in the surrounding area and building wacky relationships with wonderful friends in my community helped me realize how important being a part of a community contributes to my better health and can do so for you too.
Gardening is a natural step towards community. Who has a plant to share or a vegetable to share during the gardening season? Every gardener I know. The simple act of giving to another human being is enough to begin a healthy mental relationship with that person. While making the physical effort to get out into nature and build a garden is important, it is the act of following through with community which will truly make a difference for your emotional health.
It has become my passion to bring community together and to teach people that it is possible to be energetic, healthy, and to live a lifestyle which is good for the environment and the world. It is possible to be less stressed, less isolated and more satisfied with who you are and the life you are living. I know because my family and I are happily living it; the green life.
All thanks to a garden and one determined woman.
Shawna Lee Coronado is an author, locally syndicated newspaper columnist, energetic speaker, and environmental and health correspondent. Her book “Gardening Nude” is focused on health improvement by exposure to nature, greening, and community building and can be purchased on www.amazon.com. Find more about Shawna through her website – www.thecasualgardener.com.