Discussing our mental health has become a hugely talked about issue in recent times, especially during lockdown and with Mental Health Awareness’s theme of nature this year. So I felt it was a good time to share some of my experiences about how nature and my little garden has helped me to keep on the level.
Many years ago now, having suffered with my mental health whilst battling with alcoholism the time came where I had to take control, so I set about changing. It wasn’t easy and I had to make a big effort every day for several years but slowly it worked and my joie de vivre came back.
My love of nature and appreciating its cyclical beauty has played a very positive role in my continuing progression and my garden helps me to relax. Every morning I go out for about 10 minutes or so to see what has actually grown, just overnight there are changes and additions that hold a great fascination for me and it acts as a meditation to start the day. For many years (around 30) my garden had developed to become a quite exotic jungle and then about 10 years ago I began a complete revamp. I dug everything out and covered all the ground with landscaping fabric topped with slate and I’ve been replanting ever since.The result is a landscaped garden which is slowly building up to create a quite a fascinating collection of plants and wildlife ( over 200 mainly species so far). I would say there are two types of gardeners, the ‘Gardeners’ and the ‘Plantsmen’ – and I consider myself to be one of the latter group. To be honest I’m not too bothered about exactly how it all looks, but I do enjoy collecting the plants, some collect stamps, I collect plants. Eventually I expect to have around 500 different species and varieties in the garden, creating a varied landscape of height, texture, smells and flowers. Not only the plants but the nature they attract is fascinating from the butterflies to the little spiders that hide in the slate the slate.
There are some inspirational stories of those that have found gardening such a great help on the RHS site which are great to read.
Many talk of mindfulness and for me this equates to living in the moment; this is what I do when I am in the garden – the garden wakes me up and provides a break from my painting, which can be very intense when I concentrate for long periods of time. The garden is relaxing, I can see new things all the time and be inspired by the changes which also relate to my scientific outlook on life. At the minute I have just taken in 2 tons of slate, ready for my latest project of building a pond. I have always wanted to hear the sound of running water in the garden, so once I have built the surround, lined the pond and built the waterfall I will fill it with plants and Koi – it’s good to have a project and I’m excited about this one which has been a very long time in the making. I wouldn’t say my garden motivates me to go in and paint it but it definitely gives me renewed enthusiasm to return to my work and paint every day.
So yes I would say gardening and nature are a huge help for your mental health, I gradually tackled the elements that had held me back from being fully me and began to get back into the world. I had to and everyday now nature helps me even more. So get out there, whether it’s a window box, a balcony or appreciative walks in the park – nature is rather special and can help us all to be happier people and physical effort whether it’s gardening or walking it also great for mental balance.