There’s a lot going on right now, and I’m sure you’re looking for some stress relief, escape and distraction. Luckily, you only need to look as far as your yard for a place to meditate, exercise and get your hands in some healing dirt.


Studies demonstrate that spending time in a garden can improve our well-being — both physically and mentally.


Shake off the stress


Our lives have been upended. Working and learning from home is stressful. The strain of uncertainty looms into the future.


According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, spending time in nature reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and relieves muscle tension. Being in the garden or completing mindless and soothing garden chores helps us fight tension and reduce “attention fatigue.”


Studies show as little as 30 minutes of gardening a week can improve self-esteem, reduce anger and ease depression. And gardeners are more energetic and less anxious.


How often have you complained about not having enough time? Now is the perfect time to restore balance and routine to your life.


Can’t go to the gym?


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Gardening is an excellent way to get physical activity. Active people are less likely than inactive people to be obese or have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer, and premature death.”


The CDC recommends being active for at least 2 1/2 hours per week and including cardio and muscle-strengthening activities.


Gardeners are also more likely to exercise — about 40 minutes longer on average than those who walk or bike. We know what that means — we set out to tackle one gardening chore only to get sucked into pulling just a few more weeds or deadheading just a few more flowers.


Gardening also can help people who are recovering from physical illness by strengthening muscles and improving balance and coordination. Be sure to start out slowly if you are not used to this kind of activity, and always check with your doctor to make sure it’s safe for you.


You can design your own garden workout routine at home. Gardening chores are excellent exercises and offer anything from soothing stretches to serious cardio. Raking leaves for 30 minutes burns 225 calories and provides weight training and tones all the major muscle groups in your body. Choose your chore, from raking, pruning, digging or hauling bags of mulch.


While tackling all the oak sprouts popping up this spring, not only am I clearing out a bed, but also whacking at them with the hoe releases pent-up anxiety and helps me achieve a sense of control and accomplishment.


Before you head out to garden, do some stretches to warm up and loosen your muscles. Remember to bend and lift properly when you’re gardening. Be mindful not to twist while pulling hoses or reaching.


Practice mindfulness in the garden


If gardening isn’t your style, you can still find solace outdoors. Take your phone or your computer outside and set up a space to meditate or follow online yoga.


Make a plate and eat your lunch outside and listen to the birds.


Now more than ever, we can seek hope and healing in nature.


Gardens inspire us. Beneath the surface of beautiful blooms and stunning structure lies a hidden gem that can become a vital component of a healthy and balanced lifestyle at this difficult time.