Greeting the garden is a way to enter into mindfulness not just enter into the garden. It is a way to state your intention to connect. It is an expression of gratitude and loving kindness.
As you enter the garden – greet it. Extend your respect and appreciation. You can say out loud “hello friend”, you can think it quietly in your mind or you can feel it in your heart.
It is good to just take a moment before you start to potter or get stuck in to chore to simple take a few seconds and stand still, close your eyes, feel the temperature of the day upon your face, hold in your heart a moment of admiration for nature, feel the solidity of the ground beneath your feet, breath it all in, this is your space – you are home here, you are healed here, your self-expression is here. The garden is inviting you in, inviting you to drop your worries and get lost in interaction. A true friend.
You can make a ritual of this; follow a pattern of awakening every time you enter the garden. Finding yourself, coming in to the now before you enter the garden is entering mindfulness. If you like to keep it simple then let your hello be a smile. That smile instructs your brain that you are happy and that happiness radiates in to the work or attention you bring to the garden.
Don’t think that this idea of greeting of the garden is new to you. You have always said Hello – through your joy or enthusiasm to be back outside and engaged. But now you are doing it mindfully at the very beginning. Now you are acknowledge the gardens role in that joy and enthusiasm. Now you share the moment and into the moments you share, both will be enriched by loving kindness that acknowledgement nurtures.
The science of a smile – Charles Darwin noted that ‘the free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it’. turns out that making or even faking a smile actually creates a perception of happiness to flash across the brain. It is something often referred to in happiness and psychology studies as Facial feedback – it works because the brain registers the flexion of facial muscles and responds with neurotransmitter activity. In the case of the zygomatic major – flexed whenever your mouth makes the shape of a smile, your brain interprets it as “I seem to be happy about something” – and so releases happy hormones.
A sort of self-fulfilling prophecy – If ever there was a “fake it to make it” it is this one and there are several techniques to trigger the zygomatic major for mood elevation purposes – from reaming off vowels, to gripping a pencil lengthways between your teeth but the smile simulation works best.
Now if you are genuinely smiling then a muscle at the corner of your eyes – the orbicularis oculi – flexes and triggers a stronger facial feedback loop and deeply reinforces that happiness is happening. A good smile may also help you live longer.
Thinking about Facial feedback makes me recall the Thich Nhat Hanh quote “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
references and further reading
Abel E. and Kruger M. (2010). Smile Intensity in Photographs Predicts Longevity, Psychological Science, 21, 542–544.
Buck, R. (1980). Nonverbal behaviour and the theory of emotion: The facial feedback hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38, 811–824.
Cacioppo, J. T., et al (1986). Electromyographic activity over facial muscle regions can differentiate the valence and intensity of affective reactions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 260–268
Darwin, C. (1872) The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, London: J. Murray.
Duchenne G.B., (1990 reprint). The mechanism of human facial expression, trans. R.A. Cuthbertson, Cambridge University Press.
Ekman, P., et al (1990) The Duchenne Smile: Emotional Expression and Brain Physiology II, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 342–353.
Fridlund, A. J. (1994).Human facial expression: An evolutionary view. New York: Academic Press.
Hess, U., et al (1992). The facilitative effect of facial expression on the self-generation of emotion. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 12, 251–265.
Kraft TL & Pressman SD. (2012). Grin and bear it: the influence of manipulated facial expression on the stress response.Psychol Sci.;23(11):1372-8.
Laird, J D. (1974). “Self-attribution of emotion: The effects of expressive behavior on the quality of emotional experience”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 29 (4): 475–486.
Larsen, J. T., et al (2003). Effects of positive affect and negative affect on electromyographic activity over zygomati¬cus major and corrugator supercilii. Psychophysiology, 40, 776–785.
Rutledge, L. L., & Hupka, R. B. (1985). The facial feedback hypothesis: methodological concerns and new supporting evidence. Motivation and Emotion, 9, 219–240.
Vaughan, K. B., & Lanzetta, J. T., (1981). The effect of modification of expressive displays on vicarious emotional arousal.Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 17, 16–30.
Winkielman, P., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2001). Mind at ease puts a smile on the face: Psychophysiological evidence that processing facilitation leads to positive affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 989–1000.
Zajonc, R.B. (1985): “Emotion and Facial Efference: An Ignored Theory Reclaimed”, Science 228 15-21
Zajonc, R. B., et al (1989) “Feeling and Facial Efference: Implications of the Vascular theory of Emotion” Psychological Review 96): 395-416.”