In her groundbreaking book The Well-Gardened Mind, psychiatrist Sue Stuart-Smith explains the therapeutic impact of gardening: while we are looking after plants, they are actually taking care of us. Here, she shares 10 ways to unwind with nature.
text SUE STUART-SMITH
The unremitting pace of urban life and modern technology has led to a devaluing of the slower rhythms of natural time. But in the garden, the pace of life is the pace of plants, and gardening itself can have a meditative aspect to it if you allow yourself to be present. The rhythmic activities of weeding, hoeing and sowing, lend themselves to being practised mindfully. For me, gardening calms and decompresses my mind and I often find that the jangle of competing thoughts inside my head clears as the weed bucket fills up.
Regardless of age, gardening can be a form of play. The garden is an ‘in-between’ space – a meeting place between our innermost, dream-infused selves and the real physical world where we can lose ourselves in the activity of making things happen. One of the largest studies of ageing, carried out by Harvard, found that people who developed creative outlets in their fifties were three times more likely to be thriving at eighty than people who had not. There are many reasons why this should be so. One is that being able to shape part of our world is empowering and another may be linked to release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the brain. Entering into states of creative play is associated with increased levels of BDNF which acts like a fertiliser in the brain and promotes healthy growth and repair of neural networks.
Read the whole article in See All This #30 – Paradise Found curated by Piet Oudolf.
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header image: Howard Sooley, Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage Garden at Dungeness, Kent, UK, from 1986, 1993, on view at the exhibition Garden Futures: Designing with Nature at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein