Connection,Ecotherapy,Gardening for wellbeing,Mental Health,Nature,Therapy And Counselling,Wellbeing

How can nature help the need to control?

Everyone needs some sense of control over their lives, it is a natural human desire that can bring a feeling of stability, certainty and safety.

As humans we have a desire to control nature, to have the perfect lawn with no weeds or spray insecticide to stop the caterpillars eating the cauliflowers. This, for many years was the “norm” in gardening as though it was a battle to be won by the gardener against so called pests. I remember as a child hearing “squash aphids, they’ll destroy the roses” and “dig up dandelions, such any eye sore in the garden.”

Controlling the garden

Controlling the garden can show up as removing all the fallen leaves from the grass, having neatly clipped hedges all year round, removing “weeds” from the grass, actively removing snails and slugs or using chemicals to kill insects. When we do this, we can potentially work against ourselves as we “fight” nature, thus fighting ourselves as nature in inherent within us. This can create feelings of unrest, and paradoxically, do the opposite so we feel we are not in control.

Gardening to gently challenge self

Gardening can be very helpful in gently challenging ourselves and our need for control. Weeds are wildflowers that have a desire to spread seeds more often than some other plants, for example, Dandelions have traditionally been viewed (in the UK) as a problem in lawns. However, when we work with nature, and make space for dandelions and other “weeds” in our gardens we increase the number and variety of insects, provide valuable food for insects throughout the year which in turn encourages natural predators such as birds and hedgehogs to come and eat up those unwanted pests like aphids and slugs.

By gently challenging our need for control in the garden, we can increase our awareness of things that we cannot control and increase resilience in everyday challenges or events, which promotes that bounce-back ability.

My top tips

Tips for relinquishing control in the garden

  • Start small, choose an area of the lawn where grass is allowed to grow long and only gets cut 2-3 times a year. Trimming around and creating an edge to this patch can help with feelings of tidiness.
  • Dead head any dandelions when finished flowering and before setting any seeds, this minimises the spread of it in your garden and encourages a sense of control.
  • Gently rake up leaves off lawns and either spread around the base of plants to be gradually taken down into the soil by worms or in a corner out of sight.
  • Consider utilising weeds in your garden such as eating young and fresh dandelion leaves chopped up in a salad or making dandelion tea.