CANNABIS CULTURE – While many struggle with the stress and anxiety of isolation, Andy, of the Syracuse area in New York State, has kept a level head — by keeping his hands in the dirt.
Andy was diagnosed with Lyme disease two years ago, and when COVID isolation started, he had to take it extremely seriously. Over video chat, he said about the disease, “It was destroying my fundamental health and it takes a lot of work to rebuild that.”
Still a novice grower, he has been making strides in a passion now quickly turning into a craft. “I had already been growing so I just decided I was going to focus in and get my head out of all the negativity that’s swirling around in the world right now. It keeps me busy, keeps me active, and it’s something that I’m really passionate about. I’ve had a lot of extra time to dedicate and I think I’ve leveled up more than I would have otherwise.”
Although many people have been spending their time doing at-home projects to stay positive, the effects of the extraordinary pressure of COVID isolation have shown in the data.
Michael Benros, a professor at the University of Copenhagen, reviewed the literature surrounding COVID-19’s effect on mental health. In his review he concluded that, in the general public, there has been, “…lower psychological well-being and higher scores of anxiety and depression compared to before COVID-19.”
Benros said the reasoning for this was likely due to a combination of several factors, such as increased media attention, a fear of getting a deadly disease, and the restrictions that cause isolation, loneliness and social deprivation, “All this can affect the mental wellbeing which increases the risk of anxiety symptoms and depression.”
According to Benros this also happened on a minor scale in the areas affected by the previous SARS and MERS epidemics. There was also a worsening of well-being in the general population during the last financial crisis.
“It’s been a reminder that we as humans are very social and the restrictions are hard for many people due to restricting social contact, which is of utmost importance to most of us,” Benros said.
The therapeutic effects of gardening have been well documented. Paul Camic, a professor of psychology and public health based in the United Kingdom, and his associates state that gardening has long been considered a therapeutic outlet for people experiencing difficulties associated with mental health.
Camic and his team wrote in their paper, “Gardening as a mental health prevention: a review,” that humans have an innate need to affiliate with the natural environment, which can serve as a restorative function. When it comes to cognitive functioning, humans have two modes of attention: directed attention and fascination. Directed attention is used for problem solving and requires our effort but is a limited resource and can be “overloaded.” To refuel, humans need to use fascination, which is non-goal oriented with effortless attention. Fascination is dominant in natural environments such as gardens.
The authors stated “…there is considerable evidence supporting the theory that we are predisposed to find (non-threatening) natural stimuli relaxing, and that exposure to these stimuli has an immediate impact on affect and triggers a parasympathetic nervous system response leading to feelings of enhanced wellbeing and relaxation.”
Gardening is an activity that provides challenges and obstacles, allowing the gardener to think on their feet, and motivates them to stay engaged with their plants.
With COVID-19 most likely continuing into 2021, tensions remain high around the world. Benros’ advice for people experiencing the negative mental side effects of COVID-19 isolation is, “…to keep up the daily routines, stay as active as possible, while keeping distance, and maintaining the social relations also through video conversations and seeing your close circle of family and friends allowed by the restrictions.”
Despite the uncertainty of COVID, Andy is looking forward to continue working on his craft. “The thing about growing is that it’s always going to be a big investment. You really have to do it because you want to, and you really care about where your medicine comes from.”