Gardening does not replace my medication, but it gives me real pleasure

ByDonald L. Leech

May 29, 2022

Remember last week’s image of a beaming queen, enjoying the delights of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show from her Ma’am-mobile? Her Majesty may not be tending her perennials herself these days, but Mind’s research shows that more than 7 million Britons have taken up gardening since the pandemic, a trend back to the nature that boosts collective morale. The news coincided with the launch of the mental health charity’s own Chelsea Sanctuary.

Nearly two-thirds of adults (63%) say spending time in greenery is good for their mood, saying it makes them less stressed and they enjoy enjoying the sights, scents, colors and probably sounds of their outdoor space. For those without a garden, 43% noted that caring for houseplants or planter sprouts brings joy. Meanwhile, London estate agents Benham and Reeves have revealed buyers are willing to pay a 12% premium for a garden gaffe, averaging around £64,000 extra; amounting to £166,000 in Kensington and Chelsea.

The idea that the NHS should prescribe herbs rather than pills – said pills being antidepressants (ADs) – has cropped up a lot in recent years. Then Health Secretary Matt Hancock offered gardening as a solution to ‘unsophisticated medicine’ in 2018. A year later Manchester surgery patients were being given herbs with ‘conscious qualities’ instead of pills happy in the hope that caring for a living being might lift their spirits.

As always, the distinction to be made here is between actual depression and people feeling a bit depressed. mental illness versus mental health. A little low? Try lemon balm. Either way, antidepressants aren’t good for the occasional down day. However, for clinically depressed people, the idea that the NHS might offer herbs instead of pills is not only simplistic but dangerously condescending. I lost two friends to suicide last year, and I don’t care if I lose any more. I myself have taken SSRIs – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and citalopram (Cipramil) – for over a decade and intend to continue taking them. take. End of.

Yet, once this condition is taken into account, then, oh, the sublime happiness of succumbing to a garden. At 51, and always phobic of nature, I finally realized this great joy of fifty: giving in to greenery. When I was looking for my first home at the age of 47, four years ago, it was the window overlooking the garden that I am now tapping on that caught me, a perfect rose that quickly caught my eye. caught.

At first, we acquired half of a land in joint ownership. However, my green-fingered new partner became so seduced that we were forced to expand. During the confinement, he struggled and we now boast of having a jungle. Even so, as I sit in our small green plot, Bacon’s line crosses my mind: “Almighty God first planted a garden.” It is as if, ejected, we aspire since to other Edens.

The theories explaining why greenery turns out to be such a balm are legion. First of all, gardening offers a kind of occupational therapy, while also being a hobby and an exercise. It provides that vaunted state of flux, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s notion of contentment while engrossed in a vaguely difficult task, without self-awareness.

My partner’s thesis is that gardening involves engagement in four different dimensions – aesthetic, biological, mathematical, and physical – making it multitasking mental magic. My own opinion is more TS Eliot-lite, i.e. gardening is a matter of time. I don’t mean it simply in the sense that it takes advantage of ancient seasonal rhythms, but anchors us in the present moment while drawing us into the past and the future.

Of course, I don’t do gardening per se. However, I sit on a swing and read, my dog ​​by my side, while my beloved walks away, rediscovering my (only) childhood joys. Our patch of green will never replace my meds, but it’s still the purest pleasure – and pleasure is no small feat.

Harry Styles concerts should be available on prescription

Actor, singer and not only a national but a global treasure, Harry Styles (28) has released his latest trending intervention: reading a CBeebies Bedtime story for the BBC. If gardens are good for us, imagine the mental health benefits of Harry Styles in such a setting. For Styles is serotonin personified, a psychological booster incarnate.

It’s not about people liking it, or even a Neoplatonic take that it looks good and therefore has to be good. It’s because he’s joyful: the poster to flourish as an individual without a box. His concerts, I am told, are a safe space created by the singer and his fans. Our hero says it best when he tells the audience, “Your job is to sing, to dance, to do whatever makes you happiest in the world. Feel free to be whoever you want to be in this room. Allow me to prescribe Styles concerts at Wembley in June.

Bryony Gordon is absent this week