Gardening is so often promoted as an activity which is good for one’s mental health that I have begun to wonder if non-gardeners look askance at those of us who garden and wonder which form of mental ill health affects us.
Depression is the most common conclusion – after all, it is has now become almost fashionable to declare one’s depression. There is a certain coming out about declaring one’s depression, a jumping out of the closet with waving flags – black flags, of course, in keeping with the condition…and with a black dog on one’s back. It’s all part of the picture. It is the new black. We can’t really have the rainbow bunting as that has already been hijacked by the gay parades, a quick and colourful move on their part. No black there, though I wonder as there are a lot of gay gardeners about.
Tension and anxiety must surely come next – gardening is so relaxing and restorative and this proves that all those who garden obviously suffer from tension and anxiety and seek relief in the garden, the restorative power of gardening! Certainly, those gardeners with the misfortune to have ground elder, mare’s tail, scutch or some such infecting their gardens will suffer from tension and anxiety but not of the medically diagnosed kind; just the kind which provokes regular outburst of frustration and foul language.
Gardening nowadays, it seems, not only treats those with mental health issues – goodness, I’m falling into using the jargon myself now – it actively promotes good mental health. There is nothing more conducive to developing mindfulness than gardening as those who have snipped their finger with secateurs, torn their arms on rose thorns, gashed skin with a pruning saw or simply bumped and grazed shins on a terracotta pot will testify. One needs to be alert to what one is doing in a garden. It develops mindfulness. Yes, gardening develops mindfulness; good for our mental health – good for all the poor misfortunates who need that sort of thing.
And let’s not forget: Dirt is good for you! Soil microbes promote good health – simply by being in contact with them. There are now creches where the children are not only allowed to jump in the puddles, wallow in the mud and generally get themselves dirty but they are actively encouraged to do so – all in the belief that it is good for them. Well, to quote the generation older than mine, “it did us not harm.” Nowadays, such activities which were normal in my childhood have taken on a major significance and it is proposed that children exposed to such experiences will be the better for it – physically and mentally. I would suggest the gardeners with the mental health issues nowadays all played in the mud as children and that this disproves the efficacy of this “new” movement.
Of course, this latest fad is really only some crowd of cadgers trying to cash in on the obvious and make a quick buck. Of course, gardeners are all nutcases; it’s obvious. They’re out there in all weathers – or else indoors complaining about the weather; they continue year after year to buy more and more plants many of which they then manage to kill – though, of course, they blame the plants with a “it died on me”. They flock adoringly to listen to the latest batch of self-promoting experts, the latest messiahs of gardening, and follow them unquestioningly. They are obviously an unbalanced lot but, at least, they do little damage to society in their gardens.
Gardening may not do all that is claimed for your mental health but it does keep a lot of nutcases off the roads!