The Gentle, the Fun and the Charitable
Or just how much a simple walk or a plod about in the garden or allotment would mean to us, and become a shining highlight above all else in a week?
It goes without saying that lockdown shifted the balance in our lives. With large chunks of our world put on hold, the simple pleasures found in a little vitamin D, fresh air and the changing seasons of nature, took on new meaning.
The arrival of Mental Health Awareness Week (10th -16th May) and this year’s chosen theme #ConnectWithNature is a great opportunity to celebrate these small, but important joys which are found in nature and the positive impact it has on our wellbeing.
One individual who shares his love of gardening loudly and proudly, inspiring others to spend time in nature, is 15 year old George Hassal, an RHS ambassador and Blue Peter Gardener. George said that whilst he started gardening as a community and family based activity, it has evolved into a mindful practice which provides him with some calm, much-needed respite from his GCSE exams. From the tender age of four, George recalls helping his Dad to maintain their back garden, a steep sloping piece of land which started out with a crumbling wall.
George, using a pair of secateurs in a wildlife haven
As George has grown up, the garden has transformed into a wildlife haven, with raised beds for their favourite veg, fruit trees and two ponds. George found positive gardening influencers in his Dad’s perseverance in their home garden, his Mum’s gardening club called ‘Operation Farm’ which dates back 11 years and from the ‘Gardening Gang’ after school club led by family friend and teacher Mrs Hunter.
When asked how gardening made him feel, George replied that beyond the physical benefits which come from digging and sifting compost, watching plants burst from seed can be so rewarding. He expanded:
“I’m currently in my final year at school and sitting my GCSEs and obviously find school very stressful. Gardening makes me feel calm and relaxed. After school, I’ll go straight outside into the garden and it really clears my mind. It almost makes you forget and helps you escape any worries, the flowers, the trees, the plants make me feel relaxed and my anxieties disappear.”
5 Ways You Can Get Back To Nature
To kickstart our 5 top tips on connecting with nature, George shared his suggestion:
1. “Grow Your Own Grub - it brings our family together”
“I tend to start the seeds off, Dad and I transplant the seedlings, care for the plants and harvest when it’s time. Then I take the produce to Mum and she preps & cooks it for tea, where the veg becomes the star of the show - it’s a simple system. It is important to grow what you love to eat, for me that’s peas, tomatoes & cucumbers. There’s nothing better than picking them from the plant and scoffing them straight away!”
“You can always save some dosh and grow from pips – tomatoes, lemons, apples, why not give it a grow? I grew a lime plant from pip, no limes yet, but it makes a good-looking house plant”. Find some Nutley’s seeds here to get you started!
2. Eat outdoors
There are SO many opportunities to give back whilst being outside! From Beach cleans, conservation work with the National Trust, taking part in community schemes like Transition Worthing Green Spaces or helping out charities like Thrive, who support vulnerable people by providing access to therapeutic gardening.
4. Geocaching - imagine an older version of Pokemon Go, and you have Geocaching. This recreational activity is sure to bring out the child in anyone and is playfully tagged the ‘World’s Largest Treasure Hunt’. Great for the whole family, this will have you hunting down miniature treasures, located both locally and globally - the world is your oyster.
5. 30 minutes a day
Challenge yourself to get outdoors for 30 minutes every day for a month. The Mental Health Foundation’s ‘Take Action, Get Active’ scheme is all about making a daily effort to get outside and notice how your mood can change. Whether it is a leisurely walk, a gentle jog or some fast paced exercise, every outdoor moment counts.
Remember, whatever the world throws at you, the outdoors is always there to give you a good breather and some vitamin D.
We’d love to know how you enjoy spending time in nature - let us know in the comments below!