“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” — Margaret Atwood

Technically, shouldn’t we smell like dirt as many days out of the year as we can? Putting our hands in the dirt, working the soil, toiling in the garden- whether flower or vegetable- is incredibly therapeutic. It’s proven to lower blood pressure, decrease stress, increase mental clarity, and let’s be honest– it’s rewarding. How satisfying is it to successfully grow your first tomato, harvest herbs from a kitchen garden-in-a-pot, or just sit outside amongst your flowers and inhale the scents?

If you haven’t ever considered trying out your green thumb, now is the time to try. You needn’t spend much to do so either. (If you know the right people, you might be able to acquire some dirt and plants for free.) You need just enough to allow yourself the opportunity to dig in the dirt once in a while, or at least get a good whiff of it. If you live in an apartment, all you need is a pot, a small bag of soil, and a hearty houseplant. If you have a private outdoor space, you can expand from there. Many people successfully grow potted flowers, a patio vegetable, and a few herbs, even if they don’t have ground space.

The key here is to get dirty. Hold the garden soil in your hands. What does it feel like? Take pleasure in letting the soil fall through your fingers. Savor the texture. Examine it in detail. What do you see? Any insects? Decomposing leaves or twigs? What color is it? Rich brown or deep black? Then inhale. What does it smell like? Many times, garden soil, especially homemade compost, can actually smell sweet. It’s calming, and makes you feel grounded. Take in another deep breath, and think of how amazing nature’s design is; that leaves, grass, twigs, all break down with the help of sun, water, insects, and time, to make beautifully nurturing soil in which new plants can grow.

Perhaps having your own dirt to play in doesn’t work for your living situation, but the idea of working in the soil is too therapeutic to pass up. Look for opportunities to volunteer at your local botanical garden, join a community garden, or search out local garden clubs. People who garden love to share plants, and can be a potential resource for other gardening opportunities.

Gardening isn’t always easy work, mind you. For those that have a larger plot of land, it can be downright taxing. There’s a reason why people wear gloves, a hat, sunblock, old shoes, and come inside in desperate need of a shower. But whether you work a large garden or a few potted plants, the connection to the soil is just the same. It’s the connection to our existence.

On the day to day, we are always taxed with our precious time. Time for work, family, housekeeping, leisure, sleep, self-care–the list goes on and on. But if we can carve out just a few moments a week to spend some time connecting with dirt in some fashion, we will be rewarded with a sense of calm, pleasure, and satisfaction—all part of achieving balance.

Remember: My connection with dirt is a way to connect with myself.