Gardening, Joy, and Gratitude

– Posted in: Garden Musings

2014-10-02 06.16.11.jpg-Fran deadheading in back garden

“The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”  David Steindl- Rast

For a lot of folks, gardening is a pleasurable hobby that relieves stress. It’s an activity where you can be both productive and bring beauty into the world.

But I’m curious to know, do you think of gardening as a joyful act?

I’m writing about this subject because I’ve been immersed in working on creativity and joy for decades now. It’s an area that has interested me since I was a young girl when I encountered what the renowned psychologist, Abraham Maslow, called peak experiences, while practicing the piano. I had no idea what was happening to me but I knew I wanted more of it in my life

(*For those of you who aren’t familiar with Maslow’s work, peak experiences are often described as transcendent moments of pure joy and elation. They stand out from everyday moments; the memory of them are lasting and frequently spiritual.)

Years later, as the mother of 2 toddlers, gardening drew me once again into this extraordinary state. And to this day, both gardening and playing the piano are tools for me to access my creative, authentic self, and experience what Carl Rogers called self-actualization, Joseph Campbell, rapture, and Csikszentmihalyi, flow.

In my book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, I share strategies on how to access your creative self which frequently act as a catalyst for peak experiences.

In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown, talks about how the practice of gratitude and joy go together:

“In many ways, my research has not only taught me new ways to think about how I want to live and love, it’s taught me about the relationship between my experiences and choices. One of the most profound changes in my life happened when I got my head around the relationship between gratitude and joy. I always thought that joyful people were grateful people. I mean, why wouldn’t they be? They have all of that goodness to be grateful for. But after spending countless hours collecting stories about joy and gratitude, three powerful patterns emerged:

  • Without exception, every person I interviewed who described living a joyful life or who described themselves as joyful, actively practiced gratitude and attributed their joyfulness to their gratitude practice.
  • Both joy and gratitude were described as spiritual practices that were bound to a belief in human inter-connectedness and a power greater than us.
  • People were quick to point out the differences between happiness and joy as the difference between a human emotion that’s connected to circumstances and a spiritual way of engaging with the world that’s connected to practicing gratitude.”

So, if you want to have more joy in your life, practice gratitude.

And the garden is an ideal place to begin this habit.

For example, when you dig a hole in the ground and feel the soil in the palm of your hand, or as it crumbles between your fingers, you’re participating in a ritual that’s been taking place since the dawn of humankind.

If you let a thought like ‘Thank you spirit for giving me this rich soil to grow plants that feed my body and soul”, run through your brain in matter of a few seconds, you are practicing gratitude.

When you’re on all fours weeding, if you look up for a moment and observe the dappled sunlight playing off of the leaves of a tree and experience a feeling of grace, you are not only nourishing your body and soul, you are also practicing gratitude.

It’s literally taking a moment in the garden, just one moment, to slow down, pause, take a deep breath, observe, and infuse your senses with the majesty of nature.

It’s a simple practice with tremendous benefits. Just ask anyone who does it.

If you think it’s ‘woo woo’ or don’t believe in the power of practicing gratitude, that’s OK. Still do it.

Like anything that’s new to you, it initially may feel uncomfortable. But the more you practice, the easier it becomes until one day you realize that being grateful has become woven into the fiber of who you are.

Gardening, joy, and gratitude…..do you experience it?

Do you want more of it? What other areas outside of gardening, do you encounter it?

I would love to hear your comments.

As always, if you enjoyed this article, please share with others on social media to help get the word out. Thanks. xo-Fran

Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at www.fransorin.com.

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Fran Sorin
47 Comments… add one

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Nicki wiederstein May 16, 2015, 10:27 am

hi Fran. You are so good at putting emotions into words!!! during the garden season joy gratitude happiness fill me and the gardens What do you recommend for freezing cold winters? I thought about a conservatory to garden in during the winter. Im desperately trying to find a way to make winters vibrant and fulfilled.

Glenda May 16, 2015, 11:54 am

I didn’t realize the corolation of you and the book I have on the way from Amazon. I feel joy and gratitude every day. And when I have a profound moment I always say”Thank you Angels may I have another gift”I am a very greatful person and find myself full of gratitude just to have gardens I have been fortunate to tend.People often ask me when I will be done in my gardens or aren’t you done yet?…….ha that will never happen,I love rooting in the dirt

Pam May 16, 2015, 1:57 pm

I totally agree. I go out to the garden to find peace and feel the grace or joy, however you want to describe it.

Ann May 16, 2015, 4:16 pm

I discovered the power of gratitude as a young woman learning to recover from trauma and addiction. Practicing ritual writing about gratitude nightly helped me see the good in my life, despite the many struggles I experienced in early recovery, and as I was to discover, throughout life. Have you read Angeles Arrien’s book “Living in Gratitude: Mastering the Art of Giving Thanks Every Day” ?

Carol Aj May 17, 2015, 10:08 pm

I love to be in my garden. As a navy wife who lived all over the world, I rarely saw two year in a row a garden. i always planted daffodils so someone wh came after us would have flowers. Now that we are settled, I love to spend hours in my garden. it is my “zen time”. Sometimes i am amazed at the time i spend where i never worry about anything!

Fran Sorin May 18, 2015, 6:10 am

Ann- Learning gratitude when recovering from trauma and addiction is very powerful. I applaud you for seeing it through during the tough times…nothing to takes the place of intent and practice when trying to rid ourselves of old behaviors and replace with positive ones. No, I haven’t read Angela Arrien’s book but I’ll be sure to check it out. Thanks for your comment. Fran

Fran Sorin May 18, 2015, 6:12 am

Carol- You’ve got a generous soul. How wonderful that you were planting for folks who would be in your home after you departed. I’ve delighted that you’re settled and are living in one place and enjoying your zen time. Fran

Fran Sorin May 18, 2015, 6:14 am

Hi Glenda- You are one lucky woman to feel joy and gratitude every day. It is truly learning to appreciate the small things in life that brings us peace and well-being. I believe in angels as well! Fran

Fran Sorin May 18, 2015, 6:15 am

Hi dear Nicki,
I know how you are filled with gratitude and joy during the summers and how the winters are difficult for you. Perhaps we can chat in the fall to strategize on ways to help you feel more fulfilled and happy during the cold months!! xo-Fran

arthur in the garden! May 18, 2015, 12:41 pm

Wonderful!

Lynn May 19, 2015, 5:18 am

Please forgive the lack of capitol letters. For some reason, they are not working on this site.
I work with special needs students, many of which live in shelters. They don’t have gardens or even houseplants. Every year I take it upon myself to let them experience the joy in growing plants. I bring in soil, pots and seeds. This year they were Marigold seeds. We talk about germination, water, sun etc. Then we plant our seeds. This is the first time some of these children have ever touched soil in their young lives. As the seeds germinate, the children get so excited. We watch the grow, we measure them and I stand back and take it all in. They are so excited. Being that most don’t have anywhere to plant their plants at home, we will plant them at the school. I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to share my love of gardening with them and see the joy on their faces whenever we see how they are growing.

Sue May 19, 2015, 6:46 am

I have to remind myself to slow down to enjoy the garden in the moment, rather than getting distracted by yet another weed that should pulled or a branch that could be pruned. Stopping long enough to “smell that roses” and appreciate the subtle seasonal changes that make every day in the garden a unique experience, reminds me I am not ultimately in control. Over time I seem to be drifting towards planting more natives to attract native wildlife, pulling out invasives that might crowd them out.

Sue May 19, 2015, 6:54 am

Nikki-I too garden in the cold climate near the “Frozen Tundra” of Green Bay. I have found potting herbs to bring in as the tmperatures drop allows me to enjoy their scents and flavors despite the blustery cold weather outside. And I have had good luck bringing potted Hibiscus inside to winter them over. They occasionally burst into bloom throughout the winter with large cheery yellow blooms that remind me of my very favorite vacation spot in the world, Kauai.

jeanie May 19, 2015, 7:08 am

I read this recently, and I have modified it from the original to reflect how i FEEL WHEN i AM IN MY GARDEN.
“When I asked God to show me how to worship him, he showed me the garden.”

Carol Yemola May 19, 2015, 7:08 am

I get such joy when I garden. I get lost in my thoughts and reflect on what I have done and what I would like to do. When I am finished, I get such a feeling of accomplishment when I see what I have done. Not only that, but I love showing off my hard work.

jackie May 19, 2015, 7:24 am

I have just started doing more gardening and i’m so glad there is so much help out there for me.

Donna@Living From Happiness May 19, 2015, 7:31 am

I feel great joy especially when I walk around my garden to see what is happening….with heat, humidity and swarms of mosquitoes sometimes the joy of gardening is lost on me until I am out there and being in the moment.

I have a large garden and so I try to be out there everyday….especially now as the vegetable garden is about to produce…..I also find great joy just listening and observing nature from my garden. I garden for wildlife so I have many visitors…and at nightfall the frogs and toads keep us amused and sleeping dreamily….then I wake to the birds dawn chorus….now that is pure joy and I have so much gratitude for the wildlife that live here with me.

Jean Campbell May 19, 2015, 7:34 am

Every stroll through my garden reminds me of how much we have for which to be grateful and how little we really need to ask for.

anonymouse May 19, 2015, 7:43 am

Joy and gratitude are among gardening’s greatest gifts to me. (I also get a profound boost from experiencing a sense of connection to eternity as I watch the changes that the seasons bring.) We’ve been planting our vegetable garden these past two weeks and seeing that the seeds have germinated is always awe-inspiring.

i also get a great deal of joy from my artistic endeavors; seeing that i can turn an idea i have into an actual object always fills me with gratitude. And most mornings i feel gratitude for health and strength after i finish my daily run.

Dixie May 19, 2015, 7:43 am

i liked your quote about joy and gratefulness..AND REALIZE THAT i FEEL IT EVERY DAY WHEN i SPEND TIME IN MY GARDEN..ENJOYING THE SUN , SHADOWS,AND THE COLORS. wHEN i FEEL THOSE MOMENTS OF JOY AND GRATeFULNESS i WANT MORE OF THEM AND FIND THEM IN MY ART. WHEN i DRAW AND PAINt, THOSE FEELINGS OF JOY AND GRATEFULNESS ARE THERE AGAIN!!…dIXIE
@fransorin

Anita Taylor May 19, 2015, 8:55 am

I enjoy baking for others. I am very grateful that I am able to do this for those who truly appreciate the cookies, breads, and cakes I am able to make for them.

Heather May 19, 2015, 9:19 am

I am always filled with gratitude when I can spend restorative time in my garden.

Jean May 19, 2015, 9:24 am

… in Thy light we see light. Ps 36.9
To simply BE and know this “BEING”is enough – i am so grateful for the glory of creation and the world that is the garden. To dig in the dirt, to feel the breeze, to watch the bugs, tasting greens from the veggie plot as I walk by, the sweet surprise of a new and unexpected little seedling, the things that reminded us we are the tiniest little speck in all of this universe and yet, how thoughtful a Creator that provides such abundance. Yes I am grateful.

ec curlee May 19, 2015, 10:55 am

I’ve used a Fiskars pruning tool many times when working on both my cactus and my bonsai. Pruning is very important in the maintenance of these plants and I always reach for my Fiskars pruning tool when I’m ready to clean up my plants.

kathy May 19, 2015, 11:03 am

A good gardening purner makes the job so much easier!

Lori R. May 19, 2015, 12:08 pm

mY GARDEN BRINGS ME JOY WHEN i SEE ALL THE BEAUTY SURROUNDING ME. i LOVE THAT IT BRINGS THE INSECTS, BUTTER FLIES AND HUMMINGBIRDS TO VISIT. i HAVE BEGUN THE SPRING CLEANUP WHICH WILL BE FINISHED OVER THE WEEKEND JUST IN TIME TO ENJOY EVERYTHING WAKING UP FOR A NEW SEASON OF BEAUTY.

bobbi a. chukran May 19, 2015, 12:48 pm

Yes, I experience gratitude when doing the simplest things in the garden–puttering around, pulling tiny weeds, pulling up leaves and looking under them to check for insects, etc. i find myself breathing “thank you.”
BTW, I shared the link to your article a few days ago on my Facebook page. 🙂

Denise lynne May 19, 2015, 2:43 pm

i don’t practice this nearly enough. But just this morning, i took two basil plants from their bag and, rather than think about how much trouble i have growing basil, i just breathed in and out and in again–soaking in that incredible smell. I felt very grateful for that. and thinking in general about gardening, i am always grateful for the scents. you wait all winter and then the plants start their march–before they are gone until the next year you have to soak them up–Korean spice viburnum, lilacs, peonies, lilies, roses–each year i am grateful for those magnificent smells.

Anthony May 19, 2015, 3:54 pm

Since moving from New York to southern California 2 years ago, I have taken up gardening with succulents and cacti and It has been both a relaxing and exciting activity for me. I have experienced joy thorough gratitude but I never before described it That way. Instead, I’ve thought of it as connecting with nature, as I watch the plants grow and the interaction with insects and birds In my garden. I guess a great way to put that is being grateful for all the elements of nature around us.

Diane Richards May 20, 2015, 1:23 am

Gardening, joy, and gratitude…..do you experience it? – Yes! I love connecting with Mother earth. you get more back than what you give. Gardening is good for my soul and helps me recharge after being inside a cubical jungle at work all week.

Do you want more of it? What other areas outside of gardening, do you encounter it? The severe drought is prohibiting me to garden more right now. When I go hike and chase waterfalls and wildflowers, listen to the song birds sing and watch the butterflies fly, being out and feeling nature recharges me.

Claire Splan May 20, 2015, 1:49 am

I definitely experience joy and gratitude in relation to gardening. Sometimes those feelings are thrown into an untidy mix that includes distraction and occasionally angst. But I think that makes those moments of grace in the garden stand out all the more.

sherry brown May 20, 2015, 2:36 am

I CAN NO MORE NOT GARDEN AS NOT BREATH. I CONNECT WITH gOD MORE IN MY YARD THAN IN CHURCH. AS AGE HAS CAUGHTUP WITH ME, I AM ADAPTING TO A DIFFERENT STYLE OF GARDENING. I AM GROWING SHRUBS NOW AND PLANTING FEW ANNUALS I’M TRYING TO LEARN TO BE SUBDUED; LESS A RIOT OF COLAR FROM TROPICALS TO AN INTERPLAY OF TEXTURE. I HAVE BECOME ACCUSTOMED TO VECHICLES STOPPING TO TAKE PICTURES. I DONT EXPECT THE QUICK RESPONCE TO THIS NEW STYLE. BUT I DONT GARDEN FOR THE CROWD. I GARDEN FOR MY SOUL.

Priscilla brennan May 20, 2015, 4:43 am

Wonderful expressions joy and gratitude hold so much power when you tap into them you can truly change the world. I have found through my own experience a passion for living things be they butterflies , birds or flowers helps me be more in touch with the greater world and all it holds. By sharing it I can I help others appreciate it.

Mary funsch May 20, 2015, 9:18 am

Gardening is my go-to stress reliever and world beautifier! I also enjoy my morning walkabouts in the garden with my coffee…

Jenny May 20, 2015, 6:26 pm

It’s the first thing I do at the beginning of the day, Go out into my garden. It’s as though it is my long-gone children and I must go out and check to see if they are OK. But despite there being many times when I despair there are an equal number of times when I feel shear joy at what I have created. Is that not like the many times you balanced despair and joy in motherhood. I am now the mother of my garden.

Kristy Craig May 20, 2015, 9:37 pm

I feel joy and gratitude when I hang out with friends. It’s always fun to do things with others, and I’m very thankful that I’m blessed with such wonderful friends to enjoy the pleasures that life has to offer. It doesn’t matter what we are doing, it’s doing it together that makes it so wonderful.

Karen Andersen May 20, 2015, 10:18 pm

I am grateful for the large space in which I grow my orchard, as well as the areas I have planted in California native plants. On top of this, I am especially grateful that I continue to have the strength to garden, and hope I will continue to do so. It is lovely to read the blog posts on this site: East coast gardens as well as the coast with which I am more familiar!

Suzanne May 21, 2015, 1:29 pm

I totally agree! Gardening can be fun too. You can make gardening as a fitness. Gardening help us in so many ways, stress reliever and a healthy habit.

tracee May 21, 2015, 3:02 pm

Sometimes I think that gardening is joyful – I also think it can be tiring, frustrating, fulfilling, and a whole host of other emotions too. Overall, it is definitely satisfying. (how come I can’t use capital letters here? Not relevant really, I just found it to be odd)

Tracee May 21, 2015, 3:11 pm

this comment doesn’t have to be approved. It is just a question. Just wondering if we need to tell you how we shared it? I tweeted, shared on FB, and pinned both pics. I’m not on instagram.

Saxon Holt May 22, 2015, 1:22 am

We are always happy to have out posts shared. Thanks. No need to let us know, your comments are always welcome – Saxon Holt

Jennifer price May 23, 2015, 8:19 pm

gardening gives me joy when I am enjoying the earth and again when I see what it yields. Gratitude naturally follows.

Fran Sorin May 26, 2015, 8:55 am

Tracee- Just returned from being out of town. That’s why I didn’t respond to you sooner. You are one of the winners of the Fiskar’s Lopper. Please send me your complete mailing address to my e-mail: fran.sorin@gmail.com. Place in subject area: FISKAR LOPPER WINNER (so I don’t delete your e-mail by mistake) Congratulations! Fran

Fran Sorin May 26, 2015, 8:58 am

Diane Richards-
You are one of the winners of the Fiskar’s Lopper. Please send me your complete mailing address to my e-mail: fran.sorin@gmail.com. Place in subject area: FISKAR LOPPER WINNER (so I don’t delete your e-mail by mistake) Congratulations! Fran

Fran Sorin May 26, 2015, 8:59 am

Anthony-
You are one of the winners of the Fiskar’s Lopper. Please send me your complete mailing address to my e-mail: fran.sorin@gmail.com. Place in subject area: FISKAR LOPPER WINNER (so I don’t delete your e-mail by mistake) Congratulations! Fran

Fran Sorin May 26, 2015, 8:59 am

Sherry Brown-
You are one of the winners of the Fiskar’s Lopper. Please send me your complete mailing address to my e-mail: fran.sorin@gmail.com. Place in subject area: FISKAR LOPPER WINNER (so I don’t delete your e-mail by mistake) Congratulations! Fran

Fran Sorin May 26, 2015, 9:00 am

Jenny-
You are one of the winners of the Fiskar’s Lopper. Please send me your complete mailing address to my e-mail: fran.sorin@gmail.com. Place in subject area: FISKAR LOPPER WINNER (so I don’t delete your e-mail by mistake) Congratulations! Fran

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