How to use your garden to ease mental stress during difficult times.

It feels rather banal to be talking about gardening while there is so much unrest and fear in the world. However, our gardens can be a source of great comfort in times such as these, as a reminder of the constancy of nature, of flora and fauna carrying on regardless, living each day at a time and giving us wonderful gifts as they do so. It’s been shown that spending time outdoors benefits mental health, and “ecotherapy” is a proven remedy for anxiety and depression. Mind have some information on their website about this; you can read it here: (https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/nature-and-mental-health/how-nature-benefits-mental-health)

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Whether you’ve got a balcony, a patio, or a fully landscaped garden complete with a maze and a duckpond…your garden has to work for you. Being outside brings with it a whole host of benefits to your wellbeing; from watching the birds to finding meaning in tending something and watching it grow. This can be as simple as a windowsill with some fresh herbs growing – it doesn’t need to be complicated to bring joy. However large or small your space, if you’d like some help developing it to provide you with an enjoyable and usable space, please drop me a message – I’d love to help.

With the threats of climate change, war and Covid overwhelming the world, it is very hard to stay present. However, outdoor spaces can help. Here’s a small exercise that can help you to feel more relaxed and grounded during stressful times, and can be done any time, any place and for any length of time. 

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1: Wrap up warm and head outdoors. This might mean into your own garden, or a walk to a park if your garden isn’t suitable. 

2: Leave your phone on silent, in your pocket. This is an exercise in being present, and digital devices are masters at taking attention. 

3: As you walk, try to slow your breathing so you are breathing in for a count of 5 and out to a count of 5, through your nose. As you do this, really feel your feet on the earth, the lift of heel then toe, then the pressure as your feet repeat the movement. 

4: Try to allow all of your senses to become alive. What can you hear? Feel? See? Smell? Trees rustling? Cold wind whipping at your cheeks? Robins singing? Tiny shoots rising up through the cold soil? 

5: Notice the signs of Spring on its way. Buds of blossom, birds making nests in the hedges, fresh growth of foliage. Nature doesn’t worry, it doesn’t hurry, yet everything is accomplished in the perfect time. Even though the world is a scary place, there is also beauty at every turn, and trying to slow down and recognise this natural beauty will help to control the overwhelm so common at the moment.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a larger garden, you might find yourself wondering how to use it to help others, especially if you’re a vegetable grower. You could donate your surplus food to a scheme such as FareShare (https://fareshare.org.uk/)  who collect surplus food and distribute where it’s needed. You could also do seed, plant and produce swaps with other local growers, or simply put a box of produce outside your house with surplus food available for people to take. You might also consider how you can adapt your garden to benefit the wider world – over the past two weeks we’ve looked at ways to help birds and pond life in your garden; you could further those ideas by planning in a wildflower meadow area if you’ve got space; if not, why not do some guerrilla gardening and seed bomb a local bare patch of soil? The pollinators will love you for it! If you’d like help developing a potager garden or incorporating a wildflower meadow into your garden scheme, get in touch to see how I can help you. 

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