Mental health: your garden can be a sanctuary

Updated: May 7


What could be better for the soul than a cup of tea, a peaceful bench under a tree, some sort of garden and a good book? Oh, and a cute dog, naturally!


It sounds so appealing. A well-designed garden can represent a sanctuary and be good for heart and soul. But what is sanctuary, without taking a little assistance from a dictionary, or Google as is so often used in the 21st century?


In truth, there are many answers and each depends upon the person asking the question. A humble book can provide a sanctuary. It creates an oasis of calm that releases you from reality. It grants permission to flee from the world beyond the fence and retreat into the pictures painted by words. This tranquility is a garden of prose that knows no bounds and a single visit leaves you wanting more… much more. It’s where the heather is always dusky pink, the wispy clouds whisper past and the humming of bees is a reassuring certainty that all is well with the world.


The magical state of being can be achieved just about anywhere. It doesn’t even need a garden. Just open the book and step in. It provides a boost for good mental health, and we can all use that.


Immerse yourself in the beauty that is all around. Even in a busy city there are tiny pockets of nature. You just need to take the time to watch, listen and... breathe.


But probably the best sort of sanctuary is provided by a garden. It can be an urban garden sanctuary, a country garden sanctuary or even an indoor garden oasis. So perhaps the question should be, what is a garden, and why should we care?


It’s surely the antithesis of any digital device or the type of web that has nothing to do with nature. It needs no upgrade as this priceless place is heaven scent. The smell of damp sod can never be artificially created as a hologram, or crammed into an iphone’s mega display of artistic one-uppance. Eyes that strain to admire the zillion shots of prowess can come to rest in the garden where cool green tones will soothe, nourish and heal the soul. Cease the anxious swiping to the right, down below or scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, and fill your empty coffers with extraordinary beauty that sits beyond the screen. Royalty free sights abound, just lift the eyes and you will see a thousand shots worthy of sharing. Thoughts, hopes, joy, but above all, love of the glorious force of nature that brought them into sight. Sanctuary indeed as you step out of the slim, rectangular cage and into a world awaiting re-discovery. A garden represents what is probably the greatest form of sanctuary for good mental health.


Once you take the time to spot wonders of nature, it's just a matter of tuning into them and slowing down. Switch off the worry button, even for a few minutes. It's immensely good for you.


This restful place can be diminutive or monumental, it’s incidental. Even in a small garden, there is space to spread and grow. Sanctuary can be found in a mere window box filled with summer cheer. On porcelain treads leading to perfection or perhaps within Brown’s landscapes of Elysian fields. Sanctuary is not constrained by measures: the mindfulness provides a key. We all need to be mindful if we want to achieve good emotional health and even physical health too.


And once you enter the mindset of enjoying a garden as a sanctuary you will probably never regress to a state of indifference. You won't be able to ignore the blooms that swell, burst apart, then fall. Nor the nest of birds in the old bay tree that were previously unnoticed. Once your garden has been recognised as a sanctuary, you will be forever blessed with a life filled with meaning. It will help you when you are in need and the desire to retreat enters your psyche. Nature feeds and you live, breathe and speak with a meaning that stems from the soil. Soil and soul, just a single letter of difference. All things begin with the simplicity that sanctuary brings.


Once you start to really look, you find things that can delight you. It's all part of the process of stepping out of the routine and stopping the daily rush.


It changes lives, this special garden place. Goals lose their potency. Purity overtakes the need for corporate accolade. Desire to achieve re-models into the creation of palettes of soothing colours; gentle re-structuring of a stalk or two and the placement of a chair next to the trickling stream.


It’s never enough. The task will not be allowed to end, unlike the database that needs to function. A thoughtful snip or two, and there will be room for just one more root of delight that is yet to come. A vertical spire here, maybe a tiny statue peeping through, to provide the excitement of discovery during future pleasures. It answers the question 'why have a statue?' Every one represents something special to the owner and the rediscovery of finding these pieces amongst the planting is a reminder of their own individual meaning, and with it, some joy.


Everything, yet nothing, changes within a sanctuary. Even within the most tightly designed garden, where the colour palette is restricted and the plants restrained to just a few species. It's because nature happens, come what may. The magical unfurling of a fresh, green frond; a grasping finger of climbing, twining support against a fence that is bound to protect this space. Without you, would be a shame. For you would miss the songbird’s chant, the gently falling dust of pollen and shadows of the trembling leaves. And these things nourish, as they should. This place of being has no need for buffering, re-boots, bulletins or scores. There is no schedule, nor conference call that breaks the mood. For it lives beyond those grasping hands that tick within the long case clock.


A rainwater droplet. Such a simple thing that is normally ignored. How very beautiful it is, once you stop to look.


And what of others, entering the place where dreams have blossomed into every wish and the world has come to rest? Not everyone can see this space, nor find the solace and the sanctuary. It’s yours. Reserved for when you want and need the embrace. At other times it can be shared. Here’s a stage for any play as actors traverse through life’s events. Trunks and limbs support the braid of life as we reach to hold the fragments and bind them into meaning.


Few could actually work alongside in this peace, however. It’s your meandering journey that fuels the joy that will take forever. Others may expect to arrive. As if the task must be completed, then laid to rest. They seek the trophy that can be displayed for public acclaim. But the cup is often empty, despite its shiny badge of honour.


It matters not, your sanctuary is within. Quite safe from prying eyes and searching souls. The freedom to roam amongst the floating dandelion clocks and swaying stems Is yours alone. This garden can be a different place, without disturbing the roots that firmly entwine your heart. You are safe in each other’s company, forever. The space can change, it can move away, yet you will take your sanctuary with you because you have found the power and understanding to do so.


Spring blossom against a blue sky. These are the simple touches that can transform a day into a positive experience. Go out and find them. They are all around.


The sphere that is our world keeps swirling. It rolls on through infinite architecture embracing uploads, downloads and payloads, travelling through a fifth generation whilst enduring calamity, hostility, paucity… but always there is joy. It can require the turning of a leaf, the gentle rolling of a stone, the focus of a lens on anther… then you will see. You do your best, it is enough. Quell dismay, calm the angst. Treat heart and soul to sanctuary and you will simply be empowered.