Mental Health Prescription

From as far back as I can remember, I would always watch or help my father whilst he tended his vegetable plot or flower beds in our large garden in Somerset. Like many during the1950/60’s, growing was an important way of getting fresh veg and fruit. This was the post war years and rationing had only ended 2 years before I was born.

From my teens to the current day, I have enjoyed hill-walking and mountaineering. I have been fortunate to have been able to walk and climb all over the world thanks to a 30 year career as an RAF Aviator. In addition to this blog I also run ‘Hill-Walking For The Over 60s’ and proud to have been a Brand Champion for the past 6 years with the Ordnance Survey.

However, it was towards the end of my RAF career, that I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD. It brought a premature end to my flying career but during the final year put me under the care of the RAFs top Psychiatrist. He was a very forward-thinking man who had treated traumatised victims of the Falkland, Gulf and Afghan wars.

He realised very quickly that I was most at ease when I was either walking or in the garden. I had a greater control over my thoughts and my mind and could sleep easier without the terrifying nightmares. I found that the great outdoors helped clear my mind of the detritus of everyday life. I was one of the fortunate ones that, because of a pre-exciting love for the outdoors, in whatever guise, I did not need drugs and my condition was very quickly brought under control.

So why am I bothering telling you all of this on a gardening and allotment blog?

Very simple –

Many of the gardeners/allotmenteers that I follow on social media comment about their mental health issues and how they have good and bad days. However, it is proven that…..

Spending time in green space or bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. For example, doing things like growing food or flowers, exercising outdoors or being around animals can have lots of positive effects

Mind

Whilst I have had and tended gardens all of my adult life, it is only recently that I have acquired an allotment plot on the edge of my village in the South Downs National Park. I took it on as a retirement project as I am retiring from a second career in eCommerce later this year. The work is very stressful and full of deadlines and crisis management!

There were times when my anxiety attacks were so strong that I would make any excuse not to go outside. It was all I could do to get out of bed some days. But then I thought back to my psychiatrist and the advice he gave me. Plan a walk or a new bed, visualize walking it or planting it out – then go and visit it. It worked all those years ago and still does today.

Over the past 3 months of having the plot, I have found that despite the huge volume of work, I am very much at one with myself and feel totally relaxed. It has already proven to be the perfect antidote to the stresses of work and life in general. There have been days that I have just wanted to sit on a pallet with a coffee and look and listen. It has given me a freedom that I normally associate with the top of a hill or mountain.

Whether I am walking in the South Downs, climbing Ben Nevis or just plodding along in my allotment I feel an one with myself. My mental health has improved and I am discovering muscles I never knew I had, at least certainly not from walking.

If you have any concerns or want more information about what I have discussed, then please follow this link to Mind – The Mental Health Charity https://www.mind.org.uk/

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