At the time of writing this blog in April 2020 Britain and the world is in the midst of a global pandemic and under an unprecedented ‘lock down’. Advice to ‘Stay at Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives’ echoes through every channel on UK television. So now more than ever we need to be thankful if we have a garden which can provide some sanctuary to us in these difficult times.
But why are our own gardens so important at this time?
These are unprecedented times for our society. Many people are uncertain of their future employment as well as their health. Workers are furloughed (a word that I certainly had not heard of before this pandemic) and for some, prospects of future employment seem bleak as companies struggle to continue in an uncertain economic future. Plus any of our citizens who are deemed to be at high risk of infection due to pre-disposed health conditions are being strongly advised not to leave their homes at all. Therefore the country is seeing the mental health of many more people being affected more now than ever before at this time.
There is much research advocating that gardening is good for our mental health. People suffering from anxiety and depression are often advised by their GP’s to exercise more, get out into green spaces and join social groups such as community gardens. However the current advice is to ‘Stay at Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives’. Therefore sadly the benefits of socially prescribed community activity is no longer possible now and for the foreseeable future. There are many community developments that have been invaluable projects to support people suffering with mental health issues. But these community projects have sadly been shelved temporarily as we are in a lock down situation. Whilst parks and green spaces remain open in England, the guidance is strict that they should only be used as places of daily exercise and no gatherings are allowed. So this has severed the community aspect of gardening that so many initiatives within mental health have relied upon.
So we have to take solace more in our own gardens or make do with what we have around us.
This time has made me consider why I love gardening and nature so much. Unlike many, gardening for me is not about community spirit and getting together with other people, although I can truly appreciate the benefit of this for a person’s mental well being. No, for me gardening is a beautifully solitary activity. Whatever the weather I thrive on being able to be outside in my garden. The sights and smells, the soil on my hands, the seedlings emerging, the first fruits appearing, all wondrous gifts from mother nature that we have to cherish. When I am in a garden I can immediately feel any stress and anxiety wane away as I focus on what I am doing or simply close my eyes and open my senses to what is around – the smells, the sounds and the feel of the garden.
But what if you don’t have a garden? I would advocate that green is good in any shape or form. Whether this be a window box, a house plant to care for or seedlings or herbs growing on a sunny windowsill. You don’t have to have a large expanse of lawn or beautiful flower beds to tend. For me gardening is about nurturing and caring for plants who are reliant on you to support them and give them what they need to survive. A real sense of pride and achievement can be gleaned from simply seeing something grow and take shape cultivated and cared for by your own hand.
We will come through this time eventually but in the meantime I would urge everyone to have a little green in your life! It truly will make you feel better.