I know I’m not alone when I say, I like to rake leaves (and shovel snow)! I cringe when my husband powers up the blower, leaving a trail of fumes in his wake and blowing all of my delicate plants, including those adorable succulents (a.k.a. hens and chicks), into oblivion.
There are therapeutic and restorative aspects to raking leaves, as you spend time in the crisp fall air, soaking up vitamin D. Have you noticed the smell that comes up from beneath the leaves as you rake the earth? According to Horticulture Magazine, there is a strain of bacterium in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, which has been found to trigger the release of serotonin, which in turn elevates mood and decreases anxiety. The bacterium has also been found to improve cognitive function!
While you are improving your mood, you are also building your core muscles by keeping your trunk stable as you sweep your arms from side to side building up piles of fallen leaves. You’re burning calories, too! Think of your self-esteem growing right alongside that pile as you see your hard work paying off.
An additional benefit I found this past week, as I brought several classes around campus to help rake and collect leaves for our compost pile, was the social aspect. When you are grouped with one or two people focused on raking, conversation seems to flow pretty freely. The raking acted as a good diversion, let down some barriers and opened the channels of dialogue. I learned some fun facts about my students as we worked our core and traded stories about everything from our birthdays to Halloween to family stories. There was one particularly sweet moment when D., a student who often has a very hard time with social interactions (especially with peers), asked a classmate to come rake near him. The student agreed and as they began to work on building a pile together, I overheard D. say to his classmate, “We can be friends. Have you ever had a friend?”
So, whether you are raking to enjoy some fresh air, improve your mood, burn some calories or spend a little quality time with a family member or friend, you are doing something good for yourself.
Raking: one more wonderful task to add to our arsenal of health-promoting garden-related jobs. Such a simple activity to benefit the whole person: body, mind and soul.