Planting for wellbeing with Carolyn Dunster

What mindful hobbies are you committing to this year? In Carolyn Dunster’s new book Urban Flowers: creating abundance in a small city garden, she offers advice on gardening and how the outdoors can improve our health and reduce stress levels. Take a break, put away the iPhone and step outside for optimal wellbeing with passionate gardener and florist, Carolyn Dunster …

Being outside, connecting with nature, working in the moment to cultivate something for the future, makes us feel better. I certainly need no convincing of this. The more I garden and grow, the more I feel in touch with the seasons, the passing of time, and something intangible that makes me feel literally grounded. Whether you are in the middle of a busy town or city or in the depths of the countryside, the cyclical repetitiveness of the seasonal changes is calming and reassuring in a world that feels as if it is in constant flux. Gardening is not only good for the spirit, it also keeps you fit and strong, and there is now a call for it to be available on prescription, as scientific evidence of the benefits increases.

Three reasons to plant for wellbeing

  • Just as plants have a positive effect on birds and insects, they also have a huge impact on us, helping to improve both our physical and mental health. From my own experience, I know that they have helped me through the most difficult times in my life. Nurturing and growing plants is deeply rooted in our DNA. It is what we have done over millennia in order to stay alive. Even if you grow flowers rather than food, the process still reinforces our sense of the world being a magical place.
  • There are aspects of life over which we have no control and I find it nothing short of miraculous that what looks like an unprepossessing speck of dust will germinate given the right conditions. Tucked into a little bed of soil, moistened with a drop of water and left alone in some warmth and light, a single seed will grow into a thing of great beauty. Helping this to happen nourishes the soul. Learning how to garden teaches us patience and perseverance in a world where we have come to expect instant gratification. In manmade surroundings flowers and plants quench our thirst for natural beauty and, through close observation, they encourage us to slow down, stop rushing, and to look and look again.
  • Research is permanently ongoing but it is being proven that ‘biophilia’, the innate tendency to focus on life and life-like processes, can have positive benefits for human health. Harvard University Professor E.O. Wilson has been researching the effects for many years and has shown that being in nature helps people to recover from stress and tragedy, and that it is beneficial in the healing process. More importantly, the absence of greenery can actually cause us to feel stressed. Human beings have not totally adapted to living in sterile city surroundings and a lack of access to nature can make us unwell. Through studies in brain science we are learning that surrounding ourselves with flowers and plants positively impacts our psychological wellbeing.

Extract taken from Urban Flowers: creating abundance in a small city garden by Carolyn Dunster, published by Frances Lincoln, an imprint of The Quarto Group.


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