Becoming mindful of mental health through gardening therapy

Recent research conducted by Interflora and SANE, a leading mental health charity, found that nearly a quarter of Brits surveyed admit to feeling stressed more than once a day, and with the knowledge that plants are known to have a calming effect on our minds and bodies, a new campaign has been launched to tap into the rise of new ways to become mindful.

Interflora has launched #Mindfloral, which is about sharing new ways in which individuals can help their own daily wellbeing. Gardening therapy is a growing trend for improving wellbeing and as part of the campaign Interflora has partnered with Kirsty of @my_little_allotment to share her story about how after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the discovery of gardening therapy has aided her recovery.

Speaking about her experience and how gardening therapy has transformed her life, Kirsty of @my_little_allotment, said: “Two and a half years ago I suffered a huge breakdown in my own mental health after the birth of my second daughter, Mila (aged 3). After visiting my GP and being advised to go for CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). CBT was a wonderful therapy option for me, and it got me back on my feet but more importantly gave me the answers I was seeking, and this was a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“The diagnosis came as a shock, I really had no idea what it was that I was dealing with, I’ve never suffered with mental health issues and to hear it was post-traumatic stress disorder confused me further. I didn’t really understand what PTSD was and how I could help myself cope. After some research into what you can do to help yourself, a recurring theme that came up was gardening therapy and how you can use it to improve mental health and wellbeing.

“Nurturing plants is known to have a calming effect on our minds and bodies and being wholly absorbed in an activity can help us to remove ourselves from the frenetic noise of a fast-moving world. It’s like nurturing yourself and going out and tending to plants is an effective way to be mindful, while walking barefoot through a garden can be a unique way to connect with nature and the earth.

“Wellbeing is a huge part of improving mental health and with Interflora’s #Mindfloral campaign it’s all about ways in which we as individuals can help our own wellbeing daily. I’ve found that gardening therapy has been a huge stress reliever and the best part of it is that you don’t need a huge garden, it’s about helping your mind to slow down. Spending just 5-10 minutes in the greenhouse, or a weekend on the allotment has completely changed my life.

“We all find things that work for us and I want to give you some of my favourite things to do for mindfulness in the garden and out on the allotment.

  1. Take a deep breath – taking a deep breath is proven to calm the mind, lower your heart rate and reduce muscle tension and doing this before starting a task can have a positive effect on the task ahead.
  1. Be present/engage senses – to help with my own wellbeing before I start gardening, I like to be present in the moment and engage my senses. I think about what I can see, smell, touch and taste on the allotment and that way my mind is in tune with what’s going on around me.
  1. Grounding – placing hands in soil without gloves, taking your shoes off and walking around the allotment or garden is a way to ground yourself. Your body soaks up the negatively charged electrons and doing this will help improve sleep, pain management and stress.
  1. Small tasks – I find setting myself small tasks out on the garden is an easy way to make gardening and the allotment become less overwhelming. Set yourself bite-sized jobs and complete one before moving on to the next. It’s easier to see progress this way, this then gives you a sense of achievement, boosting positivity and mood.
  1. Grow flowers for wellbeing – The colour, the scent, the textures; flowers provide us with everything we need to enlighten our senses and are a great way to boost the mood. As I love growing food you can always try growing edible flowers at home like calendula, borage and cornflowers. So not only can you see, touch and smell the flowers, you can taste them too! 
  1. Have a go at growing your own – you don’t need a big garden or an allotment space to grow your own. You can grow your own herbs and chillies on windowsills, balconies and in small urban gardens. There are lots of ways to make the most of small spaces by growing vertically, in pots and hanging baskets.

From meditation to gardening, Interflora has put together a whole bunch of fresh ideas to promote everyday mindfulness, using the healing properties of flowers and nature, and focusing on the beauty in the everyday – helping to reduce stress, improve happiness, and maybe even find yourself needing one less cup of coffee! All the advice appears exclusively on Interflora’s IGTV as a series of videos.

Speaking about the campaign, Helen Sharpe at Interflora, said: “It’s no secret that plants have numerous health benefits, and these are well-documented when it comes to the ones we eat. But did you know, just by having plants in your home, they can help improve your health? Certain indoor plants help to improve the air quality, as well as helping your blood pressure and heart rate. Plants also help to reduce stress and the act of tending to plants can be a perfect way to practice mindfulness. Having beautiful cut flowers around the house can also aid your mood. Choose calming blue and purple hues, known for soothing the mind; you could even add some Eucalyptus to stimulate the immune system.

“The #Mindfloral campaign has been crafted to really make a difference in peoples’ lives, focusing on how we can achieve a state of mindfulness through being in the now, getting rid of those everyday distractions, and taking a little more ‘me’ time.

“Each video offers practical tips and techniques to help people to connect with their natural state of being and the world around them. From focusing on the rising and falling sensations as we breathe, or the soft texture of soil whilst gardening, the videos encourage us to look at life a little differently, and to notice the reality in front of us.”