Sasha's story of recharging and

reconnecting with nature to tackle depression

How did you feel about your first session?

It felt like a very welcoming space and group. It was a place where you didn't have to pretend that everything was ok. The surroundings of the allotment also had a great effect on me - even though you heard the rush of traffic in the background it was a very serene place to be.


What did you think of the Growing Wellbeing course?

The course contributed to me feeling better but I also understood that this sort of "therapy" is the most effective way for me to fight depression and anxiety. Therefore, I felt like I had found a way of coping I could use in the future. Most importantly, MindFood gave me a sense of purpose because I am myself now considering training in horticultural therapy. 


Can you describe what you do at MindFood?

Lucy got us doing a great variety of activities. The session would always include some time spent on one of the Five Ways to Wellbeing. We would talk about what "Keep learning", for example, meant for our wellbeing, discussed how each of us could integrate it into our daily lives etc. 


The main chunk of the session though was spent on the practical activities on the allotment. We sowed seeds, re-planted seedlings, did weeding, helped build raised beds (sawing, drilling etc), dug up potatoes. The sessions included not just doing but also learning and socialising. At the end of the session we would also have a cup of tea together, which was a great time to talk and get to know the others in the group. 


How does a MindFood session make you feel?

Each MindFood session made me feel calmer. As I planted things, saw how previously planted things had grown and harvested others, it made me feel like I was part of something bigger than myself. It gave me a sense of purpose. As I took away some of the things we had harvested, it gave me a feeling of being connected to nature. 


Can you share a highlight of your MindFood experience?

I have two highlights. Firstly I really enjoyed the delicious grapes. Secondly, and probably more importantly, I loved digging up the black potatoes. It is so rare these days to see different varieties so it was great digging and finding yet another little potato of a dark purple colour.  


How does MindFood help you manage your mental wellbeing?

MindFood provided me with several theoretical and practical ways of maintaining my wellbeing. Most importantly, MindFood provided the time and space to be in nature, do something practical in the outdoors. This proved a good time to recharge but also a reminder of the importance of making time for nature and/or gardening. I now know it is something I cannot do without and will make sure I include it in my week.  


Shelly's experience of MindFood

Why did you join the MindFood Course?

I was drawn by The Growing Wellbeing course’s holistic approach, as I often incorporate walks in nature into my daily routine. Therefore I found this course rewarding and therapeutic. The immersion of being one with nature on this course provided me with a   aesthetic experience and an overall boost to my well being with a sense and surge of vitality. 

What kinds of things did you do/learn over the 6 weeks?

I found each session to be very well structured. We began with mindfulness exercise, a rather gentle easy meditation, followed by some creative work such as sketching, creating signs, self-reflection exercises.  We would then carry out some gardening techniques such as weeding digging, planting seeds, learning how to nurture plants.  The organic experience reminded me how beneficial gardening can be – really helps with grounding one self, the sessions have helped me increase my knowledge or various vegetation, ecological values, mindfulness and the environment.

How did it impact on your wellbeing, or outlook on your wellbeing?

The Growing Wellbeing course had a positive impact on my well being in a multitude of ways. The participation of taking part in nature-based activities helps provide a deeper sense of connection to the world, thus opening up and helped heightened my senses of the raw organic beauty of the world we live in. The exposure to nature is also a good way of providing us with a dose of vitamin D.


The simple and practical techniques are rather soul soothing and positively altered my mood, thus feeling uplifted. I remember Lucy mentioned the words “nurture your well being “ those words have really resonated with me.

For a moment you forget about your daily issues and feel embraced by mother nature, being outdoors in the allotment gave me a   sense of peace and clarity   being surrounded by nature’s elements helped lower my   levels of stress that I felt prior to the session. It provided me with an opportunity to let go and be in the present moment.


What did you enjoy most about MindFood?

I thoroughly enjoyed the entire course, each and every session of the organic experience and a chance to be away from all the hustle and bustle.  I’m in awe of Lucy; she is doing a wonderful job and is really helpful and friendly. Each session was uplifting. I always left each session feeling that I had gained clarity and feeling refreshed.

What's next/do you plan to continue growing food/ practicing any of the wellbeing tools?

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the Growing Wellbeing course. Overall the sessions have contributed to improve my wellbeing.  I am definitely more inspired to do more gardening at home and thus tend to my own garden as so to speak. For me personally this has been a rather nurturing experience. In particular the direct contact of earthing has been extremely grounding.

It has helped give me structure and very useful tools that I am now inspired to utilise in my everyday life.  This type of intervention is suitable of all walks of life and gives one the opportunity to interact with others and improve your social skills – shared experiences. This type of therapy should be in the forefront and prevalent in community based well being therapy, it encourages one to maintain a more active yet gentle lifestyle and as it also brings members of the community together in a positive way, collectively and helps one individually.  The Growing Wellbeing course provided Eco therapy that gives you that chance to relax and reflect which many of us often overlook in our daily lives.


Gill's experience of MindFood

Why did you join the MindFood Course?

I joined after I saw it advertised at Ealing IAPT.  I had been looking for gardening courses because I find pottering in my garden quite therapeutic, but I was pretty hopeless at it.


What kinds of things did you do/learn over the 6 weeks?

We did all sorts of things but there was no pressure; it was always very relaxed. I learned lots of things about growing - weeding, preparing, planting, harvesting, but we also looked at ways to improve wellbeing and had a go at a few such as drawing, mindfulness, focussing on the senses, being in the present.  I learned several techniques that I can use to help control worrying and negative thoughts.


How did it impact on your wellbeing, or outlook on your wellbeing?

Mindfood gave me somewhere to feel safe, with lovely people, and learn new things, away from the stresses of life, that helped me get outside my head, in a supportive and non-judgemental environment.


What did you enjoy most about MindFood?

The thing I enjoyed most was meeting lovely people who were completely open and honest and caring. This included the leaders as well as other group members.  I learned from all of them.  We talked and talked while we did stuff, and smiled and laughed a lot.


What's next/do you plan to continue growing food/ practising any of the wellbeing tools?

I've already planted a few things in my garden and put some of my new skills into practice.  I already use one of the strategies for focussing on my senses called 1-2-3.  I hope to continue with the next phase at MindFood called Plot to Plate, and to keep in touch with the people I met.  I really care about them and missed them if they didn't come.