Finding Joy in Difficult Times

May 1, 2021

As the pandemic rages on and stay-at-home orders are extended, happiness can seem elusive. The hardship and grief that so many people are facing is devastating, and though it may seem like there is little anyone can do to relieve the suffering; there are strategies to create moments of joy. Not only for ourselves, but for those we love, both near and far.

Even during all the difficulties we’re facing, these strategies of finding joy can be achieved by small and simple modifications to our day-to-day activities. All we must do is be proactive in finding and taking hold of happiness, rather than passively waiting for it to come to us.

Lose yourself in a good book

Stories have an incredible ability to take us to faraway places and to travel through space and time. Since lockdown, I too have found myself reading more than usual. Research has shown that just six minutes of reading can reduce stress by up to 68 per cent.

Sing or listen to your favourite music

Neuroscience proves that listening to our favourite jams makes us happier, healthier, and more creative. Music makes us feel joyful by triggering the release of hormones in the right temporal lobe of our brains that control bonding, pleasure, and love. Listening to well-loved tunes, can also help recall positive memories, providing an escape from the day-to-day difficulties.

Lend a helping hand

“Our greatest joy is when we seek to do good to others,” says Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Different ways we can do this include checking in on family and friends, picking up groceries for a neighbour, supporting local businesses, spreading good news, funny jokes and kindness, making a donation, or even starting a community garden.

Let’s Get Physical

Physically active people are happier than those who are less active, according to the Journal of Happiness Studies. Whether you go for a brisk walk or do an online yoga class, it’s good for your emotional and physical well-being.

Mindfulness with Acceptance and Gratitude

Mindfulness meditation has been shown to increase positive emotions. Being aware and accepting your thoughts, feelings, sensations and cravings in the present moment leads to strong feelings of happiness.

Developing a daily gratitude practice can be as easy as one or two simple statements a day such as, “I’m grateful I have food on the table,” or “I’m grateful for the sun that rises each morning.” At the end of each day, write in a journal the things you were grateful for. By doing this, even during the most difficult or distressing times, your gratitude practice will help bring perspective into your circumstances, indirectly creating joy, and keeping you grounded.

Feeling happy may be in short supply these days. But one thing is clear and it’s that we must be intentional about bringing joy into our lives, particularly during these times. In the words of the Dalai Lama, “choosing joy at a time like ours is a revolutionary act. We can make such a choice even when things seem to be falling apart.”

For more ways to bring joy and happiness into your every day, please join us at our May 14th Circle with Adrienne Enns of May You Know Joy.

To register or learn more, email Hope to see you there!

Author: Janessa Gazmen

Growing your own food: Nourishing mind, body and soul

June 1, 2021

Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. Birds sing joyfully, flowers and trees begin to bloom, and people re-emerge from their homes to reconnect with nature and engage in a variety of outdoor activities. After the long, cold winters that we get here in Canada—and particularly this year, with stay-at-home order after stay-at-home order—it’s no wonder we are itching to get back outside into the warm fresh air.

For many of us, spring also marks the beginning of gardening season. Whether it’s the desire to ensure food security and limit trips to the grocery store or growing awareness of the positive impact that eating more fruits and vegetables can have on our health, home vegetable gardening has been gaining popularity since the pandemic began.

With no plans for travel on the horizon, the time was right last summer to make my dream of starting a raised-bed garden a reality. The kids had fun watching their favourite vegetables grow in our little 3’ x 6’ garden, and I found watering and caring for our herbs and vegetables surprisingly therapeutic. This year we added a second garden bed and, although the vegetables are not ready to eat just yet, it already has me feeling deeply nourished.

Who knew that growing your own food could nourish mind, body and soul?

Natural stress reliever and mood booster

Have you ever noticed how spending time in nature leaves you feeling calmer, happier and more relaxed? There’s a reason for this. A walk through the forest, or tending to and even just sitting near a garden has been shown to reduce cortisol levels (a chemical your body produces in response to stress). What’s more, when we spend time in nature we tend to be more mindful and present, causing our body to naturally release endorphins known as “feel-good” chemicals, which can act as a pain reliever and happiness booster. Recognizing the healing power of nature, many hospitals have added gardens to their outdoor space to help patients heal faster and provide a welcome reprieve for staff. Some doctors and practitioners are even prescribing time in nature to their patients to reduce anxiety, depression and stress, and to improve self-esteem and mood.

Strengthens body and immunity

Vegetable gardening is as good for mental well-being, as it is for your physical health. It is a great way to exercise and keep active and strong. Did you know that gardening for just 30 to 45 minutes can burn up to 300 calories? Studies also show that when you grow your own food, you eat more fruits and vegetables, which helps lower your risk of illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Picked and eaten at the peak of freshness, your homegrown organic vegetables are brimming with vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants and other essential nutrients that will keep your immune system in tip-top shape. Furthermore, spending time outdoors and exposing your skin to direct sunlight allows your body to produce Vitamin D, which has numerous health benefits, such as regulating mood, keeping your bones and teeth strong, and promoting healthy cell growth and resistance to illness.

An act of love and food for the soul

Growing your own food is an act of love and care. Carving out the time to tend to your garden and immerse yourself in this deeply rewarding sensory experience, is a powerful way to practice self-care and express self-love. When you place a seed or seedling into the soil with care, and water it regularly, you are planting seeds of hope in your soul and pouring time, energy and love into yourself and your garden. As you care for your garden, you are caring for yourself and investing in your health and wellbeing. You’ll find yourself feeling grounded, supported and loved, as the earth gifts you a bounty of vibrant, life-giving vegetables bursting with flavour and healthful benefits, that you can choose to lovingly share with family, friends and neighbours. It’s quite amazing, and beautiful, how home vegetable gardening feeds our body and deeply nourishes our soul.

Good for the environment

Growing your own food allows you to choose the quality of soil in which your vegetables will grow, while avoiding synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, ultimately benefiting you, your family and the environment. When you reach for vegetables grown steps away from your kitchen, because your food is not travelling to you by air freight or other transportation methods, you are no longer supporting and contributing to the harmful carbon emissions and waste that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere. If anything, by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, your home-grown organic vegetables improve the quality of the air that we breathe. As a home gardener, you can also feel good knowing that you are helping reduce waste from man-made plastics that are used to package store bought vegetables.

Eliminates waste

Many herbs, fruits and vegetables are sold prepackaged and in quantities that are often greater than what we need. As a result, we end up buying more than is necessary, resulting in food spoilage and a waste of money. On the other hand, when you grow vegetables and herbs at home, you are able to plant and harvest exactly what you need at any given time, eliminating food waste and ultimately saving you time and money.

Nurtures connections

When you put your hands into the earth to plant and care for your vegetables, you are connecting deeply with nature, your inner self and, if you come from a long line of farmers like I do, you are in essence connecting to your roots. Vegetable gardening can also be a wonderful way to connect with friends and neighbours, by sharing gardening stories, advice and freshly harvested veggies. And when we involve our children and allow them to get their hands dirty in our home vegetable garden, we strengthen their immune system and our family bond, we teach them about the plant life cycle and so many life skills, such as patience and perseverance. We also sow the seeds for what will surely become our children’s lifelong love of healthy eating, and a deeper appreciation and respect for Mother Earth.

Have you ever wanted to grow your own food? Perhaps you already do and know the joy of stepping out onto your balcony, or into your backyard or community garden, to pick a sun-warmed tomato right off the vine or harvest a handful of fragrant herbs that will take your meal to the next level.

Whether you are growing your vegetables in containers, in the ground, or in raised-bed gardens, vegetable home gardening is a simple and fun way to spend time outdoors, and connect with nature, yourself and others.

If there’s one thing that I have learned about home vegetable gardening, it’s that there is always more to learn. And, who better to learn from than an Organic Master Gardener?

Please join us at our June 18th Circle, when we welcome Arlene Hazzan Green from the Backyard Urban Farm Company (BUFCO).

No matter where you are on your gardening journey, this Circle will have something for everyone. Email us at to register. Bring your questions and get ready to be inspired!

Author: Helen Bantis


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