UIndy promotes mindfulness with community gardening – The Reflector

By sprouting a garden from a light bulb of an idea, Indianapolis University will cultivate an interactive program that serves as a mindful gardening space for students. Thanks to staff psychologist and diversity and inclusion liaison Alyssa Alonso and English teacher Kevin McKelvey, who helped oversee planting and general upkeep of the garden, kicked off the program earlier in september.

From September 12 to October 10, from 4 to 5 p.m., students can attend the community garden located on Standish Avenue. The goal of the program is to link gardening to mental health, according to the UIndy website. Alonso said she would speak for five to 10 minutes about the health benefits of gardening, and then attendees would spend time practicing mindfulness. Then 30-40 minutes will be spent gardening.

Alonso said she got the idea about three years ago while studying the impact of nature on mental health at another university. The program has been an inspiration to rectify the health benefits of nature to those who need and can use it in the garden. Focus and attention span, sun exposure, mindfulness and stress reduction are all health benefits that gardening can promote, Alonso said.

Alyssa Alonso, Staff Psychologist and Liaison for Diversity and Inclusion, stands in the garden. She said exposure to nature can restore and replenish a person’s focus.
Photo by Gabe Eastridge

“Attention is a finite resource, you can’t focus on so many things at once. So exposure to nature replenishes that attention, it restores your attention. attention,” Alonso said. “There’s a lot of research supporting this idea. So not only does it help your attention, but it also helps your concentration. It can decrease stress, [and] contact with nature can also reduce depressive symptoms in some people.

Additionally, Alonso said volunteers can take some of the produce grown and harvested to the garden. She said another aspect of mental health is connecting with others, so a community garden promotes a connection with others at college as well as a connection with nature. Alonso said anyone on campus is welcome to attend Grounded Gardening.

“Basically what I envision for the program is that it serves as a host group. So people can use it without having to register,” Alonso said. “They don’t have to be a customer here at [Student Counseling] Center. They don’t have to have been in counseling before, but if they want to improve their attention they think it will benefit them or it’s just something they are interested in and want to check out, they can drop by…”

Photo by Gabe Eastridge A student works in the garden on September 19. Alonso said students can attend Grounded Gardening meetings without needing to register or pre-advise. The garden is located on Standish Ave. and students are free to visit if interested, according to Alonso.

Hannah Clere, a garden intern and double major in environmental science and environmental sustainability, said the biggest benefit students get from working in the garden is a connection to nature. She said receiving food grown in the garden also lets students know where their food comes from.

“I would say coming here to the garden has been very helpful for me in dealing with my stress,” Clere said. “School is a lot sometimes, and so just being able to come here and forget about it, but it’s so close too, so that’s not even an inconvenience. It’s really helped me deal with stress and anxiety surrounding everything else I have to do.