Registered psychotherapist and lecturer at Cardiff University, Andy Garland is a great advocate of being outdoors. “Most people think they have to do something quite extraordinarily special to feel good,” he explains, “but just talking a walk in your garden or a park will lift your mood and it doesn’t cost anything! Statistics show that 80% of people in the UK live in urban areas and that less green space means reduced mental wellbeing; increase the green space and you improve mental health. I’m fortunate that my clinic is near Bute Park and I will often take a patient there and either do the therapy session walking or just sitting on a bench in the fresh air. Being amongst nature is energising and recharges you; even just having 5 minutes to be quiet with your thoughts and to focus on your breath, you’ll start to see things clearer.”
“In one of the classes I teach at University we recently discussed how the ego can be so detrimental to mental wellbeing. It is always concerned with the past or the future and you tend to forget the importance of living in the present. It is important not to get caught up with the past or to worry too much about the future either. A good friend of mine has just written a book, she’s dyslexic and has experienced some awful times in her life but she has overcome adversity and gone on to achieve great things and find real happiness. No matter how awful things may have been, we can all go on to great things. I think being in nature and noticing the changes of the seasons, the flowers and even the birdsong allows the self to be in the present and feel good naturally.”
Referring to Catherine Zeta Jones being brave enough to seek help for bi-polar disorder recently, Andy continues, “mental illness, stress, anxiety and depression can affect us all, even the rich and famous. We rarely think about taking care of ourselves in order to operate well. We take our car for a regular service to make sure it passes an MOT and some people go to the gym to take care of themselves physically but we also need to consider our mental health far more than we do.”
Garden fragrances can also be beneficial to reducing anxiety and stress as Andy explains, “a drop of frankincense or bergamot essential oil on a tissue can be uplifting and lavender is also relaxing and easy to grow, even in a pot.”
Andy points out that one of the (many) advantages of living in Wales is that most people have access to a green space, be it a garden, a park, the beach or a mountain.
“Our own garden is so small I’m not sure it qualifies as a garden,” he laughs, “my partner does grow peas, tomatoes and herbs but there’s not even room to sit down; so I always take Tao, our dog, for a walk after dinner, it just clears my mind and re-energises me after a busy day.”
Find out more about Andy, his therapies and training courses at www.andygarland.co.uk.