How to Create a Zen Garden to Relieve Anxiety

Zen Rock and Sand Garden
  • Design the zen garden to your unique preferences.
  • Add some tried-and-true features, like raked sand.
  • Visit your zen garden daily for reflection and to relieve anxiety.

Everyone experiences stress, whether in our professional or personal lives. For some people, stress is difficult to deal with, to the point where anxiety is part of daily life. Being proactive and taking measures to calm your nerves on a regular basis is an excellent way to reduce the impact of anxiety.

To accomplish this, consider creating a zen garden. A space where you can relax or meditate is a great investment in your overall health.

Choose Features That Make You Feel Relaxed

The most important thing to keep in mind when creating your zen garden is to keep it personal. There is no right or wrong way to make a zen garden. As long as it brings you peace, it belongs in your zen garden.

A good way to think about what want your zen garden to be like is to practice meditating. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing until you feel relaxed and heavy. In this relaxed state of mind, think about what you enjoy feeling, smelling, seeing and hearing. Maybe you like cool stone rocks versus warm soft sand under your feet. Maybe you’d rather hear water bubbling in a fish pond instead of wind chimes. Don’t judge your reflections; just take note of them and record them as soon as you end your meditation session so you don’t forget.

Zen Garden

Common Zen Garden Features

Bearing in mind your individual preferences, let’s take a look at some common zen garden features. A typical zen garden can serve as a good starting point for customizing your tranquil space.

Clean and simple. Have you ever been unable to focus on the task at hand because you’re distracted by a sink full of dirty dishes or a floor that needs to be swept? Sometimes these little nagging chores can turn into a source of stress. The same can be true of your zen garden if you over-complicate things and make the space difficult to maintain. Choose low-maintenance shrubs to fill the space, for example.

Smooth Stones of Varying Sizes. This is a great way to fill a space with something that requires zero maintenance. Choose smooth rocks rather than jagged ones to promote a sense of harmony. Scatter them around the landscape in a way that appeals to you. They can be lined up in an organized fashion, stacked on top of each other or placed in seemingly random spots.

Sand. Raked sand is one of the iconic features of a zen garden. The act of raking the sand is soothing in itself, and the appearance of the uniform, ripple-like lines also has a way of conveying a sense of peace.

Pathways. For a larger zen garden, build some meandering pathways that lead you to different areas. One path might take you to a shady corner, one might bring you to an open sandy area, and another might lead you to a bench next to a fish pond.

Soothing Colors. When choosing plants for your zen garden, try to stick with a soothing color palette. Greens and deep reds are ideal, but if you have a strong affinity for another relaxing color, incorporate it as much as possible.

Lights. Install outdoor lights in different areas to make your zen garden an appealing place to unwind in the evening. Set lights along the pathways, around the sand pit and near some of your favorite features.

Water Features. For most people, the sound of water trickling over rocks is very soothing. Consider adding a fountain to help add this effect to your zen garden and to drown out the noise of the world. A koi fish pond is also a great addition to a zen garden, since watching the fish glide serenely through the water is wonderfully meditative.

Statues, Decorations and Structures. Because zen gardens are strongly associated with Buddhism, a statue of a meditating Buddha is almost a must-have for a true zen garden. However, choose the little statues, decorations and structures that are sure to delight your own soul. Some ideas include a carving of your favorite animal, a gorgeous hand-blown glass decoration or a modest gazebo.

Using Your Zen Garden to Relieve Anxiety

Go to your zen garden every day to unwind from the stress of work or family obligations. Make this a space where nothing bothers you. If this means banning people from entering your zen garden, so be it. Tough conversations can wait until later.

Rake the sand into a new design every day. Move the sand back and forth until your thoughts have cleared and you feel some of the weight lift from your shoulders.

Walk the pathways and stop to admire each plant, decoration or sensation you encounter along the way.

Sit at the edge of your fish pond and let your fingers trail in the water, making ripples and tiny waves. Bring food for the fish and watch them come to the surface to grab a bite. Focus on their movements and let your worries fade to the background.

With repetition, you will feel calmer with increasing speed whenever you visit your zen garden. You may even begin to feel less anxious just by thinking about your zen garden. Your daily time in the garden can be something to look forward to. It is a time where you are devoted solely to yourself and your wellbeing. This is not selfish, but rather healthy. Spend as much time in your zen garden as you need in order to clear your thoughts and relax your nerves.

You deserve a space to call your own, and a zen garden is the perfect solution.

About the author

    Cathy Habas

    Cathy Habas writes for a living and enjoys spending time in the great outdoors. She can be reached at

    Leave a comment: