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Gardening and Mental Health with Life at No.27

Written by Sarah Talbot

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Posted on 9 January 2022

As a huge fan of Haxnicks products (especially the tunnels), as well as the founder and director of Life at No.27, I’m very excited to be launching our new partnership together.

What is Life at No. 27?

Life-at-No-27-logo

Life at No.27 is a gardening and wellbeing therapy organisation designed to support children and adults struggling with mental ill health, isolation and low confidence or self-esteem. We deliver group and 1-2-1 sessions across Oxfordshire and West Northamptonshire, all designed to build confidence and resilience, teach new skills, explore creativity and emotions and help us to connect with our senses.

As a non-profit organisation we offer adults their own allotments and weekly mental health support at our bespoke allotment and gardens site.  Here, they can learn to grow food or cut flowers at their own pace, in their own space with our support.

We also run a weekly After School Club for primary school aged children.  As well as alternative education programmes within schools for vulnerable children, 5 – 18 years old.

Why can gardening be so beneficial for our mental health?

As children, sensory play is something that is perhaps just a given, with PlayDoh, Lego, musical instruments and many other toys providing an opportunity for children to feel different textures, play and make different sounds.

Staying in the moment

Feeling, smelling, tasting, seeing and hearing all help keep us, both children and adults, here in the present moment. Enabling us to stay focused and grounded to the now and not get caught up in the past, future, or negative circling thoughts.

Mud-pizza-in-childs-gloved-hands

Gardening and learning to grow our food naturally gives us the most amazing opportunity to connect with all our senses! We feel the plants, all with very different textures and we smell the amazing aroma of herbs and flowers. We taste the produce we have grown with our hands. We see the growing and beauty with our eyes and we can hear all the different sounds that surround us. Perhaps birds, grasses swaying in the wind or a bee buzzing near the flowers.

Not only does gardening help keep us grounded and present in the moment, it can also give us much more!

Can you think about the first time you sowed a seed? That tiny little thing that didn’t look like much, but then with a bit of care became a little seedling popping up through the soil and then a beautiful flower or giant pumpkin. How did it make you feel? For me it was an instant ‘click’ moment in my anxious, frazzled brain, a spark in me set alight and it felt magical.

Plants whilst they can be frustrating at times, can build our confidence and help us to believe in ourselves.

We grew those plants from seed, we did!

my-first-sunflower

Plants also teach us the power and importance of patience and resilience. With time, determination and a ‘let’s try again’ attitude we can achieve pretty much anything…. Yummy vegetables, but also much bigger dreams and goals.

Ourselves and plants need the exact same things to grow and thrive, can you make a list of what you might think we both need?

When you have finished, can you see the connections? My list is below - was yours similar? 

One of my biggest tips I give to people is, if you ever forget how to look after yourself and notice your mental health dropping, think about what a plant needs. Then make sure you are taking care of those things in your own life... 

What a plant (and humans!) need:

  • Air
  • Water
  • Food
  • Time/Patience
  • Care
  • Support
  • Space to grow
  • Limited disturbance and disruption
  • Understanding

How gardening helps Children's' mental Health (and adults too!)

Here are some activity ideas and a few other reasons why gardening can be great for children’s and adults’ mental health;

  1. Relaxation

“I wish” you might be saying, but helping our little ones relax can definitely help us too. The great thing about gardening is that many of the processes are quick, but also quite meditative. So long as we, as the adults, make the steps clear and concise, then it’s easier for them to relax and play. I think relaxing as the parent and not worrying about them making a mess in the garden or accidentally pulling up a plant they thought was a weed, can make a big difference to children’s desire to try gardening too. An idea might be to try doing the same task next to each other, so they can visually follow your lead, but in their own space. 

  1. Imagination

Plant-art-on-table-with-childrens-hands

Getting outside in the garden or any outdoor space is a great place to explore your imagination. Imagine how the garden might look when flowers are blooming and vegetables are growing, but also imagine further. Make fairy gardens, talk to the fairies and create a story. Alternatively, imagine dragons or dinosaurs are taking over the garden, what are you going to do? Let children decide, do they need to tip toe or hide quietly? Whilst story-making in the garden, may not be technically gardening, it associates the outside space with happy, creative time. Maybe do a bit of imaginative play, then some gardening and repeat throughout the time outside, or integrate the gardening in to the story. For example, do you need to grow particular plants for the dragon and fairy friends that will come visiting?

  1. Creativity 

Gardens and allotments allow space for us to explore and emptying our minds in a creative way is hugely important for mindfulness. Talking openly about confusing or upsetting feelings can be really tricky but letting them out in other more practical ways works well. Giving children their own area of the garden, allows them to have a great sense of control and ownership, both things we all really need, but are hard to have as a child. Let your child do anything they wish in this space, whether that’s filling it with vegetables, flowers, a bean den, bug hotel or mud pie kitchen. It may not go with the rest of your garden design or scheme and you may have to divert your eyes from the mess, but it could be hugely rewarding for them.

  1. Connection

As I touched on earlier, connecting with our senses if hugely important for positive mental health. Creating a direct connection to the soil, grass, plants and wildlife can be very grounding. Encourage them go barefoot as long as it’s safe and put their hands in the soil, so they can feel the earth’s energy. Let them pick up wiggly worms, caterpillars and ladybirds. Show them all the different textures and smells of the plants, or if you don’t have any plants full of sensory benefits such as herbs, flowers and grasses, see if you can incorporate them in to your garden. Sensory play is fun and incredibly calming for both you and them.

  1. Learning 

The garden is a very gentle place to teach and learn new things such as the colours, numbers, names of different wildlife that lives in the garden, the names of flowers and how to take care and nurture a plant. How does learning new things help with mindfulness you may ask? Well, knowing more about what is around us and gaining new skills can really boost confidence, which in turn can make us happier and calmer. We know more, which means we can do more and have less uncertainties. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, once you know to how to look after a plant, it is sometimes much easier to understand how to look after ourselves and why.

To find out more about Life at No.27 head to our website, www.lifeatno27.com  .  On our website you'll find a discount code too and Haxnicks will make a 10% donation to Life at No.27 for any purchases made using the code.

We also do a monthly newsletter which includes free activity resources and the latest information on our classes and events.  And of course you can find us on our Social Media channels

Finally, thank you so much for supporting us and the people we work with! Together we can help make a huge difference to many lives.

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