New Year’s Resolutions are upon us providing an opportunity to reflect on the past and organize goals for a healthier, happier year. A large percentage of us want to improve our diet, be more active and lose weight. Primary Care Physicians like me almost universally agree that counseling patients on diet and exercise is an important preventative strategy.
So if these improvements are important, why don’t more of us follow though with these resolutions? Because improving nutrition and activity are large, multi-faceted changes, often with confusing or conflicting recommendations. And if you fall off the wagon, guilt can often prevent you from getting back on until the following year.
So here is the one recommendation that should be on everyone’s New Year’s Resolution list:
Start a garden.
That is it.
Growing your own food is the perfect way to supplement your diet- regardless of what diet you’re on. Atkins, Low-fat, Low-calorie, Mediterranean, South Beach, Paleo, Whole Foods, Vegetarian, Peanut-free, Gluten-free, Heart Healthy, Diabetic… I’m hard pressed to think of a single diet that doesn’t benefit from more home-grown vegetables.
Furthermore, some of the most pleasant (and free) exercise I can imagine is to plant, maintain, harvest, weed and clean up the garden.
More and more research supports the benefits of gardening to ease depression, anxiety and chronic pain as well. Over time, these claims have become more widely accepted and convincing.
The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy, is to go outside, somewhere where it is quiet, alone with nature, the heavens and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, admist the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know there will be comfort for every sorrow whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe nature brings solace in all troubles. – Diary of Anne Frank
Starting a garden also fits into common sense recommendations from the American Psychological Association regarding New Year’s Resolutions and how to keep them:
1. Start Small
All resolutions should be attainable. If, for example, you’re wanting to grow all your own food and live off the grid, you’ll likely struggle to keep up with the demands. But if you want to exchange no garden for a container garden, you’ll be more likely to succeed. Glean For Good plans to break these steps down into pleasant, daily 15 minute tasks. We will post them on our FB page. You can start anytime throughout the year (not just Jan 1st!). And you can look forward to what we recommend rather than view the task as a punishment or chore .
Glean For Good spends 15 minutes a day on enjoyable activities to keep the hobby farm humming. Truly, anything more than 15 minutes is extra, fun and not essential for anyone’s survival. Some days, 15 minutes flies by and we willingly take extra time to preen the garden beds, expand the chicken coop or groom the donkeys. Other days the weather is so cold, rainy, muddy or hot that 15 min watering the animal trough is all we care to do.
2. Change One Behavior at a Time
Unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time. Thus, replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones requires time too! Don’t get overwhelmed and think that you have to reassess everything in your life. Instead, work toward changing one thing at a time.
Once a day, GFG will post a simple 15 min task that promises to be enjoyable and gets you one step to a healthier you. During the winter, many of our “chores” might include collecting seed catalogs, searching your closet for good gardening gear, or queuing up podcasts, music or audible books that keep your mind active and encouraged.
3. Talk About It
Share your experiences with family and friends. Consider joining a FB Group or websites from the following groups: Homegrown Sioux Empire-Dakota Rural Action, Ground Works & SD Ag in the Classroom or Plant Traders Anonymous. Joining groups like these makes your journey to a healthier lifestyle that much easier and less intimidating.
Glean For Good promises to remain a group by amateurs, for amateurs. We certainly don’t have all the answers, but we love to exchange stories of success and failure and to experiment with new techniques. Plus, where’s the fun in scientifically analyzing a new creative outlet? Let’s get our hands dirty together!
4. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Perfection is unattainable. Remember that minor missteps when reaching your goals are completely normal and OK. But starting a garden is wonderfully habit-forming and hard to mess up. Once you see those first sprouts in the spring, pluck that first tomato off the vine or make your first lettuce salad, you’ll likely be hooked.
Plus, you aren’t Pa Ingalls, completely dependent on this year’s crop to survive the long winter. This is a fun hobby which the food, experience and exercise can’t be taken away from you. See your garden as a tool that works for you- providing healthy food, purposeful exercise, meaningful connection and a creative outlet.
Let us help you! Like or follow Glean For Good on Facebook. Starting Jan 1st you will see regularly posted projects to tackle.
Happy New Year from Glean For Good!