Gardening for the mind and soul

Today I wanted to take the time to talk about something a bit different but really important. Mental Health. Some of you may have clocked our story on Instagram on Wednesday, #WorldMentalHealthDay2018 and knew that this post was coming. But before I even begin I’m going to caveat that I am not an expert or qualified in any way. Yet I think that makes it even more important that I’m writing this. I’m just a regular old joe, in fact I’m a regular old joe who normally belongs more to the grin and bear it / stiff upper lip/ somebody has it worse than me/ emotions? what emotions? school of living. It’s true, ask my friends. And even when I do talk about things that I’m feeling I’m normally incredibly flippant about it.

But here’s the thing I’ve learnt over the last few years. It is important to talk. To share when you are not ok, be that with a friend, a complete stranger at the end of a helpline or a counsellor. It’s ok to not be ok. It’s equally as important to listen if you find you are that friend. Yet there is still a massive taboo about sharing when it comes to mental health - how quick are you to tell a friend that you’re feeling fluey compared with that you’re feeling anxious? However we all know someone who, at some point, has struggled with depression or anxiety or stress. It’s likely that we ourselves have as well. How can something that affects all of us so intrinsically be skipped over so regularly in day to day life? Why is it that the professional help is so unobtainable and often not available until things are really bad?

One of the aims of World Mental Health Day is to reduce the social stigma around mental health by talking about it and raising awareness. As we well know from our goals in sustainability, raising awareness is a first step towards change so to help us on our way I thought I’d share some thoughts on my own struggles and what the heck that has to do with gardening...

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As I guess is natural from, well, living there have been over the years some good times, some ace times and some really not so good times. It’s life, it rolls like that. I’m not going to bore you with the specifics of the not so good times, because a) this blog is first and foremost about sustainability and b) I’m 100% not ready to share with the anonymous masses of the world on the other end of my keyboard. But suffice to say sometimes the really not so good times catch up with me and play on my mind and I’m not okay. It’s times like these that I am grateful that I have my allotment.

Now, I know what you might be thinking, allotments are planning, physical labour, constant work and regular failures how on earth does that help with your mental health?! And they are, but each of those things come with a benefit. Planning gives purpose and sometimes when I’m lost under a mountain of thoughts simple planned purpose is a lifeline, to be able to not think and just do a task as planned is freeing. The physical labour is one of my favourite aspects of my allotment, there is something immensely satisfying about going about a task and watching things change under your hands and feeling the ache of a job well done in your muscles. I’m sure there is a scientific explanation about releasing of endorphins but I just know that half an hour digging over a bed and my mind is clearer and my shoulders feel lighter if not a bit sore.

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I also find the constant work bit useful, it’s a reminder that I can’t lose days to wallowing in bed, there are plants that need me and jobs that need doing and I’ll be buggered if I let all that hard work go to waste. It’s amazing how the simple need to look after something other than yourself can get you moving on the worst of days. Even the failures are a wonder because they just make the successes all the more exciting (I reference #pumpkinwatch if you were following along on my insta stories). And after all that the allotment has this one glorious benefit - it’s outside, and I think there is nothing better for the mind and soul then fresh air and nature. There are plenty of writings, books, articles, blogs, research etc. hailing the benefits both physically and mentally of gardening so I won’t continue here but do encourage you to give it a google.

A rather astute colleague of mine once commented that he could tell my mood by whether I’d spent the weekend in my flat with a glass of wine, several books and food or down my allotment working hard with a tin of cider. He was right, I do go to the allotment when I’m not feeling my best self but I always leave happier, more content and relaxed. Which takes me to my point and it is this: garden. Get a pot of earth, a patch of land, an allotment, a window box, a terrarium, anything really and grow something. Whether you grow flowers, herbs, fruit or veg not only will you be helping look after our planet, reduce your impact and become more sustainable you’ll also be helping to look after you.


Peas, love & cider

C

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