I was skeptical at first…
When I first started volunteering at Dorset Mind, I never thought I would be working on an allotment! In my twenties and thirties, I loved being outside, walking in green spaces, surfing in the sea, but I was never a gardener. My role as a strategic volunteer led me to the Dorset Mind allotment in Dorchester. At first my thoughts on allotments were that they were for older people and experienced gardeners! However, having spent some sessions at the allotments, being in such a calm space watching the butterflies and birds, seeing vegetables and flowers grow, I had a light bulb moment.
To me, an allotment ticks every box of the five ways to wellbeing…
I felt drawn to the allotment in a way I never imagined as a non-gardener. This also seemed to be the opinion of other participants that attend sessions as they too saw this magical safe place that offered so many opportunities to be creative and learn. Participants who enjoy being outside and who may not have previously considered gardening, now attend regularly and feel sessions really do benefit their mental wellbeing.
Attending an allotment session with Eco in Mind helps to increase physical activity, this can be anything from watering, to weeding and digging, whatever is suitable for you. Learning about plants, gardening and nature really can create curiosity and help keep the mind sharp. Connecting with trained mental health volunteers and others with shared interests and experience can increase a participant’s confidence. Being mindful and taking notice is effortless in nature.
Life can be hard, but in an allotment, there are always little moments of joy…
Time passes so quickly when you are immersed in nature in a mindful way. You find yourself noticing the small things, the lady birds and caterpillars, vegetables and flowers flourishing and feeling the sun on your face. Sitting and talking to others whilst in a safe, calm, open space helps participants feel supported and connected to others. We all learn together and watching something you have planted grow from seed is exciting! Even if it doesn’t grow or gets eaten by a slug or caterpillar it is still a learning experience.
Giving back to the community…
We are all very passionate about knowing that what we grow is given to the local foodbank. Harvesting our produce gives everyone a sense of purpose and pride which is difficult to find in other environments. Knowing that, whilst you may be attending for your own mental health concerns, what you grow also helps supports others too!
Eco in Mind caters for all…
We have participants aged from 11 years up to 75 years. Every age and non-gardener sees a benefit in attending our sessions. There is so much evidence to support the idea that being in nature supports mental wellbeing. Gardening on an allotment allows you to be active in nature and when you want to be passive, sit quietly and watch in awe at the amazing moments nature can offer. It lifts the mood, calms the mind and helps you to be present.
Our Guest Blogger:
Huge thanks to our guest blogger Sharon for her piece on how ecotherapy and working on an allotment can improve both a persons mental and physical health.
Find out more about Ecotherapy and what it can do for your wellbeing here
If you are struggling to cope with your mental health in general, please talk to your GP. If you’re in a crisis, treat it as an emergency. Call 999 immediately or the Samaritans, FREE on 116 123. Alternatively, call Dorset’s 24hr Helpline called Connection on 0800 652 0190.
Dorset Mind offers group support that can also help with your wellbeing. The group offers peer support and helps to reduce stigma by normalizing conversations about mental health. You can also check out further support for stress and mental health here.