Guest blog post: Kat Haward
Gardening has so many benefits for our health. It helps our physical health by encouraging us to stay active by digging borders or planting out. However, the biggest benefit I feel from gardening is towards my mental health.
For me, my garden has been my sanctuary from all of the stresses in my life. I have always enjoyed being outside ever since I was young. Going outside helps me to connect with nature. When I am struggling, I like to sit in my garden. I try to focus my mind and then I see the beauty. I can hear the bees and the bird song, I can see the plants swishing in the breeze, I can smell the flowers that are next to me and I can feel the different textures of the plants. This helps me to stay calm and ground myself because I am focusing on beautiful things. It also helps me to appreciate nature so that wherever I am I can see the beauty of nature shining through. I find that even if I am not in a bad mindset going into the garden and seeing things in bloom brightens up my day.
I love to garden because it gives me a sense of achievement that boosts my self-esteem. Whether it is growing my own food or flowers, it brings me joy to see it all come together. I like to walk round the garden and sometimes I will notice new things like new flowers blooming or veg ready to be harvested. Whatever it is it makes me so happy and excited to see. For some people, it may seem silly jumping up and down when there is a new flower in bloom but for me this is normal. I have put the time and effort into nurturing these plants so to see that effort come into fruition (sometimes literally) it makes me proud. Even if it is ‘just’ gardening it shows that when I put my mind to something I can achieve great things. I take this on in my everyday life where if I put in time, effort and work hard I can produce great things.
Life has many stresses for each and every one of us and for me gardening has helped me to cope with some big and little ones. When I am in the garden, I feel more relaxed because I can focus on the beauty of nature. I can also admire how far the garden has developed because of the work that I have put in. Gardening can be very therapeutic which can help to relive stress. Watering, deadheading, weeding and mowing the lawn all are very therapeutic for me. I don’t know if this is because the tasks are repetitive so I can lose myself in them or the fact each task I am doing is helping to nurture the garden and maintain its beauty (maybe it’s a bit of both).
When I started gardening, I was very young. Growing up gardening I never had anyone I could discuss it with because none of my friends gardened. In fact, it made me feel like it was a very old-fashioned hobby. However, in early 2021 I started to document my gardening on Instagram. I found many different accounts who felt a very similar way to me about gardening. Gardening online has opened up a whole community for me to interact with. I can interact with different people and discuss and learn different things. I don’t post constantly because I don’t feel the need. I still do a lot of gardening that I don’t share just to keep it calming. If there was a big pressure to share everything, I think that it would mean the joy could get lost. Therefore, I may not feel the benefits of it so strongly.
Gardening for me is a coping mechanism but also an opportunity to connect. When my granny died in 2019, it wasn’t a big shock. My dad had been caring for her for years and there was a decline. I always like to remember her when she was happy and that was usually when my sister and I were playing the piano and singing to her or when she was outside gardening. When I am gardening, I feel it connects me with her. I know she would be proud of me for turning the garden back to something beautiful. Sometimes, I also like to share a bit of the garden with her by picking some flowers and making a beautiful arrangement. Then, I walk down to her grave and put them in a vase. I like to think she likes them.
Gardening definitely helps my mental health. I am so lucky to have access to an outside space because it has done me the world of good. It gives me space to breath and escape and let out all of my emotions. Especially now, we should all take much greater care of our mental health and we should find ways of doing that. I hope my experience can relate to you in some way or help you to find the thing that can help you to take care of your mental health.