Meet Alice, and engage with plants for mental wellbeing.

Posted by Sarah Jane Humphrey on

Hi there! My name is Alice and I’m a relatively new member of the Botanical Atelier team. I’ve had the great joy of working in the shop for the last few months and getting to know so many lovely faces, in between lockdowns of course. 

Alice's Allotment 

 

A little about me 

 

I'm a Horticulture student at the Eden Project with a background in anthropology, teaching and adolescent mental health. I’m obsessed with the beauty, complexity and diversity of plants - from the 50+ indoor house plants I take care of (they’re really taking care of me at this point) to the organic fruit and vegetables that I grow up at the allotment, plants fascinate me and occupy most of my time in one form or another.
From an anthropological perspective I’m interested in how we interact with plants around the world, for food, medicine, clothing, design, and the wonders working with nature and plants can do for our wellbeing. Working in mental health services I saw how beneficial simple interactions with plants can be, and how putting that seed in the soil, tending and watching things grow, can have a profound impact on our mental health, when we can tap into the seasons and rhythms of nature. 
 I also love working with my hands and I’m often crafting away at some little project or other. Recent creative pursuits have involved printmaking, basket weaving and my current obsession - foraging plants to make dyes for fabric, which I will hopefully get to knit into something cosy at some point!
 I look forward to being present in this space online and in the shop - and I’ll hopefully be sharing some of my horticultural knowledge along the way. Working in the shop is a constant source of inspiration for me, from meeting so many interesting people to the lovely books and products that we sell. 
 
My first blog is on how plants can benefit our mental wellbeing, particularly during lockdown - 

 

 Engaging with plants for mental wellbeing

There’s no doubt we are living in uncertain times. In one way or another, all of us are affected by this current global situation, and we’re all navigating through this pandemic with a range of coping strategies. Right now and more generally, cultivating a connection with plants can bring us back to the present moment, in times where the future seems unpredictable and uncertain.

 

tree

 

I believe plants have incredible power to help us navigate change and teach us something about resilience. Whatever is going on in our world, they continue to grow, adapt and thrive. Plants surround us every day, from trees overhead and moss on rooves, to the food we eat, materials in the clothes we wear and the medicines we use. Becoming aware of the large role plants play in our lives can help us understand and feel connected to a constant in the world around us, when in many parts of our lives, we may not feel so connected.

 

house plants

 

 

When it comes to wellbeing, the positive connection between our mental health and nature is increasingly recognised. Since 2019, the NHS have been recommending fresh air and green space as part of social prescribing schemes, and many studies have shown that gardening, caring for houseplants, and even just being present in green spaces can improve our psychological and even physiological health.
 

 

Small things we can do right now

During this less-green season, to engage with plants for our mental health. When outside, even at this sometimes bleak time of year, there are glimpses of colour, growth and change if we take a moment to look. When out walking, I like to engage with plants by identifying them by their common or botanical name (great apps for this are Candide or PlantNet) which can be an interactive way of learning more about the plants around us. I also try to engage with them when I can - picking a seed head or leaf as I walk by and taking a closer look, thinking about how it’s formed, perhaps even taking it home and drawing it. These moments of identification and connection can be an act of mindful presence in the moment, as well as activating our creative minds when taking time to notice the shape of a branch, or the colour of fallen leaves.
 

blossom

 

Green Housemates 

Inside, as most of us are at the moment, many of us have green housemates that occupy our homes. When we’re not feeling our best, it can be easy to neglect or forget about our leafy companions, however, taking time to care for houseplants daily or weekly as manual work that has tangible results, can help us feel a sense of achievement, as our plants grow with us. 

 

 green leaf

 

Although our houseplants do grow less and generally need less water in the winter, try incorporating house plant care into your routine by misting tropical plants, rotating pots or removing dead leaves while making a cup of tea in the morning, or giving thirsty houseplants a shower on a Sunday night. It’s also about accepting that some may not thrive along the way too, and that’s okay - we don’t have to be perfect right now (or ever). In times where it’s hard to have control over things in the future, we can at least try to control how happy our plants are - whether they are fed and watered or have the right amount of light. Through cultivating compassion for them we can learn to have compassion for ourselves. 

 

Plants can Lift our Mood

 

The constantly changing nature of plants can lift our mood as we watch the seasons change, and see how, despite everything going on in our world, plants continue to grow and adapt to their environments. Trees in winter, bare of leaves, can remind us about the importance of rest, recharging and renewal. Maybe we have been trying to race along like normal and need a little reminder to take some time to recharge.

 

fir tree

 

Plants will continue to grow around us and whatever the future brings, the seasons will change, and things will be different. Keep an eye out for the first signs already appearing - those emerging snowdrops (Galanthus) or Narsissus shoots that could be just around the corner, making their way out of the winter ground.

 


Share this post



← Older Post Newer Post →


  • Great article Alice. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Nature, plants, thriving wildlife are a constant source of wonder and happiness.

    Juliette Houghton on

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.