Mental Health Awareness Week
The theme for the UK mental health awareness week 2021 is nature! I love how much we are talking about the benefits of nature for wellbeing more now. I've noticed a distinct increase in awareness for a few years now, then again when Kate Middleton designed her RHS Chelsea garden 'Back to Nature' and then emphasised hugely during lockdown when many discovered the benefits of gardening, growing food and generally feeling the need to be outside in the fresh air. It is also Mental Health Awareness month in the US so a big chance to keep on spreading that all important word about our intrinsic link to the natural world.
I’ve always loved plants, as toddler I used to pinch the peas from their pods and dream that fairies lived under the shed. I can remember helping my Uncle in his garden - I used to pick the caterpillars off the cabbages! His old greenhouse is etched in my memory, full of tomatoes.
Later in life, I had some health issues that completely changed my life plans. During about ten years of medical trips, the one and only place that made me feel completely at ease with the world was my own garden and houseplants.
I always knew my garden and allotment helped me to ‘reset’ at the end of the day. I would crave my time there and relish every second. Then I decided it was time to not just know that it did help me but to find out 'why'. At the same time, I realised that life is too short to not be doing something you are passionate about, so my whole world became about spreading the love of plants, training, researching and educating people about the wellbeing benefits of plants and nature - it gave me a purpose at a time I needed it. I have now been spreading that very word for many years! It's one of the reasons why I wrote my new book The Joy of Gardening; the everyday zen of mowing the lawn where you will find not just practical gardening tips but also many life lessons, exercises you can do in the garden to find relaxation and gratitude, along with approaches to align your life with gardening activities.
Gardening, plants and the natural world is a place of healing, understanding and reflection. Time disappears when you are in a garden as you focus on nurturing life. I’ve sown thousands of seeds over many years and still to this day every single one amazes me.
Gardening provides not just a day to day purpose but also a lasting legacy. You can find great satisfaction in growing your own food for a plant based diet, cutting flowers for a vase and absorbing all of the wellbeing benefits that the act of gardening gives. From the beneficial bacteria in soil to forest bathing and tree hugging.
We know that gardening improves a myriad of health issues and so importantly it reminds us that we ourselves are nature. We are intrinsically linked to the natural world and everything you do in the garden can create a positive impact when you garden sustainably with the environment in mind. Ensuring your garden creates that impact for the planet, pollinators and other people brings us a purpose as your not only nature your plants but also your own positive mental health wellbeing.
Here are some ideas I've put together for you to do in the garden with your mental health wellbeing in mind. Click on the link and scroll down on the page where you can download the free pdfs documents.
I've pulled together some research and great articles about the importance of nature, green spaces and gardening for wellbeing at the below links. They are totally worth a read. It's wonderful to see research reports now being published and social prescribing on the up! Remember your mental health is as important as your physical health and gardening, absorbing yourself in the natural world and taking time to look after yourself is as important as ever right now.
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