• Tom Robinson

Gardening and mental well-being: why being close to nature is so beneficial

I thought I’d better write something a bit calmer and less distressing today because covering some of these involved stories is upsetting and I am very aware of the impact it has on my own mental health.


Having said that, I’m not going to shy away from talking about the difficult issues that so desperately need discussing and highlighting, so I won’t be pulling back any time soon!


I know that nothing will change unless some of these issues are highlighted by those who have been through the system. But rather than just pointing out failures and oversights I will also be fundraising in the future because I know that it’s important to lead by example rather complaining all the time which isn’t always the most constructive thing to do.


I will try to do all of this without upsetting and alienating people, which won’t be straightforward, but I am adamant that things should improve for future generations.

It’s very difficult to strike the right balance in all of this because I know how complicated and huge the problems are, but I can’t sit back while people are suffering like this!


Anyway back to today’s post….


Last week, I caught the end of a report about gardening and mental health (well-being), and how it was being used at a doctor’s surgery, and it made me want to mention it in a post.


I’m not sure if I’ve found the right surgery because I didn’t catch the name in the report, but I found an article on the Royal College of General Practitioners website which I thought I would use as an example.


The Dr Stockton and Thompson GP practice in Manchester set up a wonderful gardening project in an attempt to combat the rising levels of loneliness and obesity in their community.


A plot of land was turned into a garden by the practice team along with the help of 30 volunteers, the aim being to educate patients and bring the community together, thus reducing loneliness and combatting isolation.


The functioning garden is used to educate patients about:

  • Where food comes from, how to grow fruit and vegetables and how to make healthy meals from the produce

  • The importance of physical health and well-being and how to safely benefit from vitamin D

  • The importance of preventing illness with healthy lifestyle interventions

  • How to support and look after the environment

  • How social support can be gained through common interests

  • The benefits of nature on mental well-being


I think it’s a fantastic initiative and a great way to encourage activity and engagement with nature which are both so beneficial for mental and physical health.


Now that I am finally well again, I am noticing an interest in nature and gardening that I never really appreciated before.


My friend Mark has often tried to encourage me to go with him to Restore, a mental health charity in Oxford, who run a gardening and recovery group at Elder Stubbs Allotments, but up until now I’ve been just not been well enough to even contemplate going.


I hope to be able to join him soon though, especially as the restrictions are now easing and I will then be able to report back with some more details and information.


Charities like Restore play an essential role in helping people to recover from mental illnesses and give them, not only a purpose, but an opportunity to learn new skills and boost their confidence.


Regaining confidence after suffering from an episode of mental illness is so impossibly hard and it’s something that I don’t think people really appreciate.


There’s a notion that once you’ve left hospital you should be alright, but that is when the healing begins because the trauma of the current system as well as the losses and destruction of the illness itself all needs to be reconciled with.


It has taken me nearly four years to recover and regain my confidence after my last hospital admission in 2017. The road to recovery is long and arduous and there are often setbacks along the way, which is why having the opportunity to participate without pressure or commitment plays such an essential part in the healing process.


Funnily enough, I have just read that the theme for this year's Mental Health Awareness Week is 'nature' which I think is so fitting, and I will be writing more posts on this subject in the coming weeks.


If you live in Oxfordshire and would like to know how you can get involved with the charity Restore then you can find more information here.


To find out what charities offer in other parts of the country, information can be found through a search on The Charity Choice page which I have also added here.


Thanks for reading,


Speak to you soon,

TR

www.dyingtostayalive.com