Mobile phones, i-pads and social media offer great convenience and 24-7 information. We can check our emails without having to be in the office, even at the weekends and evenings. However, although the advantages are numerous, we may never mentally switch off or have down time. This can be a contributing factor to stress related illness.
Mindfulness is a very simple method of switching off, even for 5 minutes in your day. It can be done anywhere at any time (as long as you aren’t driving the car!). It requires no special equipment or gym membership and is completely free of charge. All you need is time and space. Although it can be done anywhere, one of the best places is in your garden.
You don’t need a huge country garden to benefit from mindfulness. All you need is a calm, quiet, attractive space where you can sit in comfort to appreciate the sights and sounds of nature. This can be created even in a city garden. In fact, a small courtyard style garden is perfect for mindfulness. If you would like to transform part of your garden, look for an area which gets the sun at some point of the day. Restful, neutral colours can help relaxation, so if you’re thinking of repainting the shed or fences, choose pale soft greys or beige. Greenery can help to add calm, whether this is a lawn or some shrubs. Planting can help to block out traffic noise in a city garden. Perhaps a raised bed could create the perfect backdrop. If you don’t have room for a raised bed, container plants would also be suitable. Bamboo, Skimmia or Pittosporum are evergreen and will do well in a large pot for a few years. The sound of water is very relaxing, but a water feature is not essential for mindfulness.
Mindfulness requires you to be able to focus on your breathing and switch off for 5 minutes. This is not possible if your garden looks as if it needs attention. For this reason, you need an outside space which is easy to maintain and keep looking good all year round. If you have a lawn, consider laying a mowing edge, laid flush with the grass. It saves time mowing as you don’t have to get the strimmer out to finish the edges. Another way to reduce the maintenance in a large garden is to divide it up to create ‘rooms’. This means you can focus on making one small area attractive and full of plants and features, whilst leaving another area as a blank canvas in grass or gravel. In order to enclose your chosen area, a wall, perhaps around 1.5m (5ft) high would create the feeling of a walled garden. Planting in front could be in a raised bed or even at ground level with a row of Kerbstones to retain the soil. Climbers and wall shrubs can be trained along the wall. An ideal combination would be honeysuckle, a climbing rose, Pyracantha and Ivy. This would ensure year-round interest for your senses through the perfume and sight of attractive flowers and berries. It will also attract birds and wildlife to your garden.
Once you have created your perfect haven, aim to take 5 minutes every day to sit outside and lose yourself in the moment. Listen to your own breathing and the sounds around you. When your mind wanders back to tonight’s tea or tomorrow’s work, simply bring your focus back to your breathing. You will find that 5 minutes of mindfulness every day can help you become calmer, more patient, and more productive. Far from being 5 minutes wasted, it should become an essential, useful part of your day.
If you would like help designing your perfect garden, why not give us a call and find out about our range of landscape design services.
Vanessa Drew is a highly experienced garden designer based near Rathfriland, Co Down. In her blogs, she shares her passion for horticulture providing advice for all types of garden.