Gardening can be a therapy in itself. Historically, residential homes for people with mental health problems had gardens for the patients to work and relax in. One of the gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show this year was called “Hug: the healing urban garden” because it was designed to create a calming space.
Being active outside in the fresh air is always good for us, but the process of looking after something else other than ourselves is extremely healthy and soothing too.
To nurture a plant (or an animal or child for that matter) is to be responsible for something other than yourself. This sounds obvious but the positive effects can be powerfully rewarding. Caring for something outside of ourselves removes our focus from our internalised thoughts and worries and gives us a broader perspective on our immediate environment.
Connecting With The Natural World
There is something almost spiritual about nature. It can engage all of our senses, especially when we work with soil, water and plants. Using our bare hands to touch the soil and plant seeds or plants can be very fulfilling. In these health and safety aware times of antibacterial gels and gloves some of us rarely get our hands dirty in our daily lives.
Gardening can give us a good excuse to literally roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. We can even get childlike enjoyment from getting messy, perhaps remembering the mud pies or sand castles of years gone by.
Stopping To Smell The Roses
Time can stand still when we water a plant or weed a flower bed. We can become immersed in what we are doing and it can even become a mindful activity when we concentrate on the task we’re carrying out and how it feels at that moment.
Watching our hard work grow and flourish can literally root us in time in a healthy, rewarding way, alleviating the feeling that we’re always chasing the clock and helping us to feel connected with the seasons.
There are so many ways we can get involved in tending plants, even if we don’t have a garden of our own:
- House plants: there is some famous NASA research which highlights exactly which house plants and how many are needed to improve the air quality where we work and/or live
- Window boxes
- Herb gardens
- Garden shares
- Community garden projects
- Offering to help an elderly or infirm neighbour with their garden
Why not pop in for coffee and cake and pick up some plants at the Cherry Tree Nursery, a local nursery celebrating 25 years of providing locally grown and cared for plants by people with mental health problems.