When you struggle with your mental health, it’s sometimes very difficult to find things to occupy your brain when it’s screaming at you. And sometimes, when you do find something that calms you or distracts you, it can be something that you didn’t expect.
I’ve never been big on gardening. When I was younger, I would help my parents doing bits and pieces, but it was never something that I fought to do, and as I got older and moved out, the only plants I generally had were either cacti or chilli plants (because who doesn’t like growing their own chillis?) But, when Alex and I moved into our first home, we both found that we enjoyed doing things in the garden. The first house we moved to was a rental, so we couldn’t do a great deal with the garden other than mow it, but we still enjoyed looking after indoor plants and the few potted plants like raspberries and strawberries that we had outside (see my previous blog “Plants, Mental Health and the Tale of Momma”) and we found that this, at bad times, helped us feel marginally better. However, we have since moved into our new home (which we bought), which we can do a whole lot more with.
We’ve only been in this house for just over a year, and when we moved in, all we had was a huge patch of grass, but we’ve spent most of it trying to figure out what parts of the garden get the most/least sun, and which get wetter etc. so that we know where the best place to have plants would be. Our aim is to ultimately have beds and a greenhouse. For now, though, we have multiple things in pots and planters, as well as continuing to grow our house plants.
One of our dreams is to have an allotment where we can grow and harvest edible plants, but for now, we do what we can in our back garden. So far, we’ve had garden peas, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, chillies, bell peppers, courgettes, aubergines, lettuce, rocket, leeks, and spring onions, as well as a host of herbs such as basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, coriander, and chives. We also have a few plants purely for the bees, such as roses and wildflowers.
Before we even had plants, we had plenty of wildlife, including frogs, toads, and newts, but now we have plants, we have even more visitors like bees (even a leaf cutter bee), butterflies, dragonflies, various beetles, and even small bats. We also have a lesser spotted ginger feline sneaking in occasionally
So what has this got to with mental health? As I said earlier, looking after the few plants we had in the old house helped our brains relax and gave us something to concentrate on, so with a bigger garden that we can do a lot more with it helps us even more. We find that growing our own plants from seeds and nurturing them is something to be proud of. Along with that, repotting them when they outgrow their current situation is also a very calming activity. Trying to work out what size pot to put them in and then repotting them keeps our minds busy. This goes for both the outdoor and indoor plants. I’ve found that watering the plants and making sure that we don’t kill them is less of a chore and more something that I enjoy doing. It takes me back to those times when I would help my parents.
Sometimes it’s hard to look after yourself during a mental health crisis, let alone another living thing, but with plants, the act of caring for them is a great way to give you something other than the bad things in life. Plus, with our ultimate goal of wanting to grow things to eat rather than relying on buying fresh stuff, it gives us something to concentrate on with a longer scope.
We have so far been planning what we want to do with the garden. But for now, we’re happy with what we have growing in pots. I’m sure there will be more updates on this in the future.
I’m not saying that gardening is a sure-fire way to stop intrusive thoughts at bad times, but it’s definitely something that’s worth a go. Even if it’s just looking after a houseplant, it gives you something else to focus on. I never thought I would enjoy it as much as I do, but I do, and I’m glad that we have a large garden that has so many possibilities.