Plant. Sow. Reap-eat

Although we live in society where communication is mostly digital and the print industry is dwindling... I LOVE owning physical books! My apartment is filled with a variety of topics and every once in a while, I choose to pick one up at random and revisit its magic. The other day, I cracked open the cover of a book that I have had for nearly a decade: "A Thousand Paths to Happiness" by David Baird, a small square book filled with hundreds of quotes/phrases about happiness. I don't exactly remember what prompted this gift from my volleyball coach, but I remember my dad and I decided we would crack it open each day to a random page and read the quote/phrase. The very first day, we opened to 

You will never meet an unhappy gardener.

My 13 year old self giggled and thought it to be rather obscure to equate gardening to happiness...I wasn't really into flowers and gardens...more-so sports and team/group based activities. When reopening this book again recently, I was taken back to the happy gardener. My first random page read 

Think of Happiness as a kind of mental gardening.

The more I thought about this "mental gardening," it began to make sense. Gardening is proven to help reduce stress levels, and I think that happiness, stems from our ability to relieve and manage our personal stress levels. Now to be honest, I am not really one for gardening. Not only do I live in a small apartment with no room for a garden, I don't really have much of a green thumb either. But I decided to really dig into the principles/tips of gardening and see how I might be able to take a hint from my recent quote, and try some "mental gardening." They say Spring is a good time to start growing and digging, so perhaps we can give it a shot and apply the principles of garden design/care to our daily lives to manage stress and achieve happiness!

The Prep:

Clear the Ground / Improve the Soil: The plan is to plant and cultivate some really awesome qualities, relationships and goals in your mental garden, so we have to start with making sure these seeds have a place where they can really thrive. No one likes weeds in their garden, so identify negative thoughts, habits, and relationships and write them down. This is a start to acknowledging them and removing them from your mind. 

The Plan: 

Design/Picking your plants: There are a lot of important things to keep in mind when designing a garden and prepping to choose your seeds. When speaking about plants, they refer to Line, Form, Color, Texture, Scent. Now in our application of mental gardening, I would correlate these with Organization and Harmony.  Keeping on top of planning, organizing, and making sure your thoughts and goals are in line with one another will put you on the path towards minimizing your mental disarray. If we want to even get a little more literal, we could add that staying on top of your hygiene and personal Scent can really help improve self-esteem and self-presentation.  

When designing we also must keep in mind Balance, Sequence, and Scale. These work great for our mental gardening! Start small in your planning and only include in your garden what you know you can manage to avoid getting easily overwhelmed. Think about Variety and start by writing down one goal, one relationship, one thought, and one habit that you really want to nurture and cultivate in your mental garden while keeping in mind how much land to allocate to each. After assessing how they all work together, evaluate your garden and maybe sprinkle in some more seeds if you can handle it! Emphasis is important, remembering to limit the number of dominant elements we include.

The Up Keep:

The seeds we plant are going to need Nutrients, so this is a great time to write down all the positive thoughts, relationships, and habits you possess already and how they correlate with each of the great things you have decided to plant. Think about who/what would be on your "Nutrient Team." Think outside the box. Your nutrients could include people, places, snacks, activities, jokes, quotes, books... anything that will help the seeds you have planted thrive both consistently, and in emergencies. I bet you have more nutrients than you think and this list is awesome to revisit when your garden needs a morale boost or perhaps a specific plant needs some fertilizer! :) How frequently will your plants need nutrients? Daily? Weekly? 

If you have chosen to write down the plan of your mental garden, Pick a Place were it won't be ignored! Maybe its at your desk, or maybe its on your bathroom mirror or by your bed....If you display this somewhere you see often, you will be less likely to ignore it, or even worse forget to maintain it. A garden doesn't thrive on its own, and so your mental garden is going to need upkeep and love.  

So remember the "happy gardener" and that your mental garden is a process. 
Plant happy thoughts, ideas, and goals. Nurture your garden with love and nutrients when needed. And pull the weeds before they get too big and disrupt your hard work and the beauty of your mind!