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Gardening for Mental Health

It has only taken a very short break from the garden for me to realise that I have been missing a lot more than the garden itself. I am absolutely fascinated with the human – nature connection {or the lack thereof} and in the past few days I have been trying to think a bit deeper on why... why has the garden helped me so much with my mental health... beyond the fresh air, pretty flowers, healthy veggies and exercise - here are a few things that I have come up with...   

Acceptance

There is no such thing as a garden or a gardener without problems. At least there shouldn’t be! There are weeds, there are pests, there are toddlers, there are birds, there are diseases and funguses and there are problems for no good reason at all! So, while we continue to grow things, we inadvertently become more accepting of imperfection.

This can be really helpful with managing obsessive-compulsive thoughts, black-and-white-thinking, and perfectionism. Maybe by persisting in the garden, we learn to accept the blemishes in life, live with them, and maybe even place a higher value on those things that are imperfect... a crooked vegetable or a nibbled flower... you won’t find a gardener throwing these things away.

Growth-Mindset

The garden teaches us that all of the little jobs we do in life add up to... achieving big goals! You are forced to slow down because you know you cannot build everything in one day and you know that plants don’t grow in one day either. But over time, slowly, bit-by-bit, without even realising it sometimes, all of those little tasks start to add up to something magnificent. This is a real confidence booster!

You can look back at everything and think – hey, I made this! And then we have learned that it is the journey, not just the destination that really matters... Because the garden is just like the wild in that there is no end... it just keeps on going... so the mindset of reaching a pinnacle of perfection at the end of a long, linear race... starts to fall away... the garden is just a series of bumpy cycles, much the same as life.

Mindfulness

Has anyone else ever been to a therapist and been prescribed Cognitive Behavioural Therapy? Yes, well, I wanted to bring this up because it is a common therapy these days and is very effective at changing harmful thinking patterns. But there is a catch... you have to do your homework!

A therapist may assign you certain activities, meditations, and some pen and paper work. The thing is... people are not always so good at doing their homework! Or, you may be good at it while you are in regular sessions with a therapist {which can get expensive} and then your good habits tend to fall away in the long-term when you stop going. Insert, that’s right... THE GARDEN! There seems to be a lot of similarities between CBT and Garden Therapy – and mindfulness is a big one...

To be mindful is to be present, in the moment, using all of your senses... feeling what is in front of you, smelling the air, seeing, hearing, and tasting... without letting your mind stray...  When you go out into the garden, every sense is ignited without even trying... you are effortlessly drawn in, from one sense to the next, slowing down the mind... and what happened yesterday... or what needs to happen tomorrow... starts to disappear... To me, gardening seems like mindfulness... made easy!

This is a subject that I feel so passionately about and I look forward to sharing more about my own journey with depression and anxiety, how I manage it and live comfortably with it every day, and how the garden has been such a crucial part of the healing process for me!  Thank you so much for being here!

With so much love,

Xx Elizabeth 


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