This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week, a week to provide valuable opportunities to create important conversations and offer support and advice. With the shut down of gyms, parks and sports activities this past year, our gardens have become more important for our health & wellbeing than ever before.

Research shows many tangible health benefits of gardening & being outside including - decreasing obesity & depression, enhancing opportunities for connections to nature and creating space for relaxation. With this in mind we have created a list of activities for adults and kids to promote wellbeing in the garden for the whole family.

Create a mindful space

Create a space outside to just be whether it's a shaded area by the trees, a patch of lawn that gets great sunlight or a patio circle lined with lanterns. Creating a safe, calming outside space we can retreat to and soak up the vitamin D can have a huge beneficial impact on our immune systems and mental wellbeing. Use scented plants in pretty pots that attract wildlife and adorn the area with cushions, throws and twinkly lights. Why not try out some simple movements to keep fit in the garden with these two relaxation activities.

Mindfulness in the garden

Mindfulness is the mental state of being consciously aware of what is happening in our body and mind, as well as in our surrounding area. It can help us to improve our mental clarity, concentration, tolerance & empathy, whilst reducing stress and rumination.

There are many ways to practice mindfulness, and one which is proving increasingly popular is gardening. We’ve all experienced mindful moments outside - the first sight of a seedling poking through the soil, a glimpse of springs' first butterfly, golden light beaming through bright green leaves... Losing yourself in gardening can really help to bring your attention to appreciating the little joys of life and becoming more present in that very moment. Try this simple activity to practise mindfulness in your outside space, do it alone or with the whole family.

Activity - Use all of your senses

Sit comfortably in your space and take a few minutes to listen to the sounds around you, visualize all of the different colors around you, feel the ground with your bare feet or hands, notice what you can smell? Does it bring any tastes to mind? Go through each sense mentally or write down / draw what you experience and feel. If the mind starts to wander onto other things - kindly bring it back to your senses.

Yoga in the garden

Yoga in the garden is a great way to exercise at home in the fresh air. All It requires is a mat, (or a blanket / towel), a safe space to move in and you! Try starting off with a simple energising flow that can be adapted to suit your fitness level such as a Sun Salutation. By working with a simple flow of movement - you can turn the mind to moving with the breath. A great way to work and wake up both body and mind.

Sun Salutation A - step by step

1. Stand tall crown of the head lifted towards the ceiling, tuck tailbone and pull shoulders down from ears
2. Inhale - raise arms up and gaze up
3. Exhale - bend knees slightly and fold forward from the hips
4. Inhale - lift chest halfway up and rest hands on legs either above or below the knees, gaze forward
5. Exhale - bend knees, frame feet with hands and step back into a plank, come down to the knees. Then slowly lower your chest to the floor.
6. Inhale - bring the hands either out in front like a sphinx or by the chest and lift chest off the floor for cobra position.
7. Exhale - tuck your toes, push away with hands and lift hips up back to downward dog - an upward v shape, keeping knees bent
8. Inhale - look forward, step forward
9. Exhale - fold forward
10. Inhale - lift arms and chest all the way up
11. Exhale - bring hands back down to heart-centre

Repeat these as many times as feels comfortable to do so.

Standing Sun Salutation A
Seated Sun Salutation A

Create a Sensory Herb Garden

The act of gardening itself is a therapeutic form of exercise. Not only can it keep us physically fit with weeding, mowing, pruning, planting & harvesting, but it can also have a real positive effect on our mental & emotional wellbeing too.

A herb garden can bring fresh flavours to your cooking & floods of fragrance while providing a plethora of greenery. This project can be done & kept outside in the garden but can also be planted inside if you are limited on space or do not have access to a garden. Place herbs in a sunny spot and water regularly to ensure a consistent supply of sweet aromas and tasty dishes.

Starting from seed

Place seeds into small pots or clean eggshells half filled with compost, cover seeds fully, water daily and place on a warm window sill. Once seedlings appear, separate and repot.

Take cuttings

Take cuttings from established & store bought herbs by cutting the stalk just below the second node, removing excess leaves keeping 2 at the very top and placing in a jar of water on a warm windowsill to root before transferring to pots. Use this method you can ensure a continuous supply of your favourite herbs.

Display Your Herb Garden

Arrange your herb garden using colourful pots near to your kitchen or back door, or make a window box for them to flourish in - ensuring they have access to plenty of sunlight.

If you are short on space or want something different - get creative and turn a pallet into an on trend living herb wall with this clear and easy to follow guide. The whole creative process can be beneficial for wellbeing in the garden.

Garden Activities For The Kids

Four interesting and refreshingly different ideas for entertaining youngsters in the garden.

1) Nature Art

Take inspiration from land artist James brunt and see what sculptures and collages you can all make out of all the natural things you can find in your home & garden and on your daily walk.

Get lots of ideas here

2) Build An Insect House or Bug Hotel

Building an insect house is a great way to encourage children to build deeper connections to nature, that helps make that garden minibeast hunt a little more interesting.

Collect materials such as dry leaves, sticks, bark and moss, old plant pots and pallets.Then sandwich the pallets with the dry materials and pots and then find some flat material such as slate to make a roof, this will keep everything nice and dry.

This fantastic video by Chester Zoo demonstrates the building process in just 1 minute:

3) Build a Garden Assault Course

Whether it’s for the kids, the dog or yourself! An assault course is a great way to keep everyone entertained and active.

Raid the garage, collect all the kid's garden toys, tip up the garden furniture and put that old tyre to good use. Creating a fun loop for the whole family to tackle. Get the kids fully involved by designing and creating their own assault courses.

More info here ​

4) Pebble Painting

Using only paint and pebbles you could have hours of fun creating an army of minibeasts that are perfect for protecting the garden plants. You could also try painting NHS rainbows and positive quotes, great to leave about for others to find while out on your walks.

1. Start by cleaning any dirt off and leaving to air dry.
2. Pencil on or go straight to painting the pebble.
3. Dry with a hair dryer or leave to dry naturally.
4. Once they are dry you can seal with PVA glue and place them around the garden.

Find out more about the benefits of mindfulness, yoga and other activities related to wellbeing in the garden at the NHS Choices website.

Free images from pexels