Connecting with nature on my allotment - Tomi's story

Tomi is a Counsellor and lives in Edinburgh. She shares how spending time on her allotment has helped her connect with nature:

In this past year, spending time on my allotment plot has been an escape from the strange reality of my day-to-day life, a place of reflection. Now, as we move out of lockdown, I can’t help but reflect on the important role it plays in my wellbeing.  

There’s not much growing yet. Some garlic I planted early, to see how they’d fair. It’s all about trial and error, but that’s part of the joy. And if plants don’t grow, figuring out what to do different next time. It is exciting. But also steadying - this realisation that, it’s not all down to me; that I can only do my best, and live the rest in the hands of nature. This mindset helps with struggles in other areas of my life. This acceptance that it’s not all down to me, eases the weight on my shoulders. I feel less anxious.

Tomi in her allotment

I am pleasantly surprised to discover how little it matters when crops don’t do as well as I’d hoped. I am surprised at my response when plants don’t grow/yield as I had hoped. Instead, I am curious about the whys and enthused at what I might discover next. I’m amazed at how delighted I feel at every new discovery. 

Gardening in my allotment in this past year has been like a playtime with nature. I feel the soil in my hands, wondering what will grow best where. Occasionally I am sure, but mostly I take risks and try things out. 

Little risks. Like when I delayed netting the blackcurrant shrub because I was tired for the day. When I returned the next day, all the plump, shiny black jewels were gone! “Oh well”, I muttered. Birds help by feeding on some of the pests in the soil. One could say, they’ve earned the blackcurrant pudding! And it’s my part in keeping the cycle of nature moving. Time in nature brings more into my awareness, how interconnected we are – plants, animals and humans. This attitude does wonders for my wellbeing. I am not knotted in anxiety and a feeling of powerlessness when facing a difficult time.  

Working from home in lockdown, I have spent a lot of time on my plot and I have rediscovered my sense of wonder. A sense of failure is not my default feeling when I’m faced with disappointment. Instead, I am curious - what can I make of this? 

Most significant, connecting with nature helps me better appreciate the power of connecting with people. I don’t feel the need to rush to my plot and back and when I’m there, I take time to stand and chat. In the earlier months of the pandemic, the allotment was one of the few places I could safely socialise. This has been particularly important for me, as I live on my own. I now know more plot holders by name. I ask about their family, and talk about mine. We talk about COVID-19 and lockdown, and how lucky we are to have this space to come to, when there was nowhere else to go. In the nurturing arms of nature, we could be together while staying apart. 

Gardening has given me that uplifting that comes from having being in relationship with fellow humans. Now, as we come out of lockdown, I continue to nurture the new friendships alongside my crops. Really, connecting with nature doesn’t only nourish me with good food. It is helping to feed my soul and keep me mentally healthy. 

Hear about other people's experiences of connecting with nature to benefit their mental health.

Discover nature stories