Did you know that in the UK 1 in 4 of the population will experience a mental health problem? In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problems (such as anxiety or depression) in any given week.
That IS a QUARTER of our country suffering from mental health problems. It could be the person you sit next to on the train in to work. The person who serves you at the grocery check-out each week or the happy person you speak to at the other end of the phone whilst you renew your insurance, or even a friend or family member. The thing is it could be anybody, as mental health has no preference or prerequisite for who it targets and when.
Last year I was one of those statistics. Being a long term sufferer through-out my life meant I knew how to recognise the signs. I’m also quite happy in discussing how I feel, when depression strikes, however not everyone is the same and don’t find it quite as easy.
During my dark time, after posting out, I had countless people tell me how brave I was for talking about it. You see, there is a HUGE stigma still surrounding mental health, where people almost feel flawed by it, or that somebody may think less of them. That just adds to the negative impact it has on us, this is the anxiety of mental health.
Many people shared with me their sufferings and dealings with mental health, you’d be surprised just how many came forward saying “Thank you for sharing, that has really helped me” or “Let me know if I can help in any way, as I’ve been there before too”.
These messages of support were truly amazing and a huge aid in my recovery, I was pondering ideas of giving back to the support network and helping the best I can anyone who is in need.
But then, at the back end of last year, things got even darker.
Most of you will be aware my life took an unexpected twist down a different path. I separated unexpectedly from my husband, I moved house and I started a brand new demanding job in a new field all AT the same time. All of this, regardless of the positive fresh start my life needed, was extreme stresses.
My subconscious brain couldn’t deal with the post dramatic shock all of this was having on me, so my body started reacting in a peculiar way.
The following pictures are NOT pretty, but they are REAL!
Despite being in positive spirits, my body broke-out in a random rash. At first I shrugged it off, but every time this happened it became much more aggressive and then started the palpitations.
I started taking over the counter antihistamines, but they didn’t do a thing. It became so extreme one day, it saw me in A&E because my throat, lips and airways were swelled up, then my head.When the ambulance arrived they gave me a stronger dose of antihistamines.
When I arrived at hospital they gave me a steroid and admitted for the night to be checked on.
The next day I was discharged with Chronic Urticaria.
Stress can effect you in the most bizarre ways. If I hadn’t of rang the 111 NHS helpline would my body’s reaction to stress have killed me?
Now, one thing that was causing me stress was denying my love for gardening and my short absence from it!
I immediately visited my plot a few days after my hospital discharge, I even filmed it! But what’s really peculiar, is how my Chronic Urticaria hasn’t flared up once since having my hands back in the muck!
Now people may call me a crazy hippy (wouldn’t be the first time), but I totally believe gardening is responsible for this (my recovery).
Below I’ve outlined why horticulture therapy shouldn’t be over looked and why I’ll continue to be it’s ambassador.
- Gardening helps us to relax and switch off from the modern world. “Flowers are restful to look at. They have no emotions or conflict” – Sigmund Freud. When we weed, mow, strim, chop or prune, we get into a dance like rhythm which stimulates us in a meditative way, slowing down our busy minds.
- Gardening can transport you back to some of your happiest childhood memories. For me the smell of roses reminds me of making perfume and freshly cut grass reminds me of family picnics in the park in the school holidays. These things always makes me smile and uplifts my spirits, a subtle comforting – like natures hug
- Gardening helps us nurture, which most humans crave. We want to help, guide and protect our family, friends and loved ones. It’s safe to say that gardeners love their seedlings and plants with the same devotion. We tuck them in at night, feed on routine and change their diapers too… OK I’m referring to pots of compost here but you get my point right? This gives us a sense of responsibility and boosts our self-esteem.
- Everyone is aware of the benefits exercise has on mental health and OUR health in general. Exercise releases the feel good hormone dopamine and serotonin which combat and lower the stress associated hormone cortisol. Gardening gives us a great workout, with weeding, barrowing, mowing, digging. Think of those movements, it’s basically squats, deadlifts, upright & bent over rows – all over body compound exercises – best thing is, you’re not watching the clock and seeing it as a chore!
- Gardening can even help us with extreme emotions too, like grief, anger or aggression. Hacking away at a hedge certainly beats smashing a plate in frustration, and it’s so satisfyingly good for the soul, getting it off your chest and letting it all go. Even at worse, butchering a plant is usually rewarded with new growth, so go on have a good hack.
- Gardening can help us feel in control! If you suffer from anxiety and often feel out of your depth and plagued by stress it brings, gardening can help with that. Whether it’s controlling the shape and colour of your borders, to what you plant where and changing your mind if you feel like it, it’s your choice and that can be empowering. Also it can be the opposite, if you’re like me a bit of a perfectionist and uber critical of themselves, nature takes that control away from you as mother nature has the ultimate say. I’m just a helper!
- Lastly, gardening teaches us to be in the present and patient. Watch the birds sing and hunt their meals. Watch the clouds roll with a cup of tea. Before you pick up a trowel, just stop and admire your space and the wonder that is life. Take a few deep breaths of gratitude, don’t look for the flaws look for it’s wonders…. AND then, go at your to do list!
There we go my 7 facts on why horticulture (Posh word for gardening) is real and shouldn’t be underestimated for its benefits and the healing powers for poor mental health and stress.
Don’t ever feel you are battling alone!
If you are new to starting a brand new garden, allotment or even just a pot on the patio and don’t know where to start, well you can always give me a shout for a virtual hug or a bit of horti advice.
I’ve also got a wonderful bunch of horti mates too who are always happy to help!
Brightest Blessings Always,