There’s always a risk that life can become samey in a winter lockdown but at Natural Happiness we have some fresh approaches which can brighten life up: this is a story of an online workshop that lifted everyone’s spirits and we thank the Horticultural Society in Lyme Regis for inviting us to deliver an online workshop.

The Natural Happiness approach shows how people can tap into their gardening skills and methods to cultivate their own wellbeing. I’ve used it with all kinds of groups, from hospital doctors to unsettled teenagers, but doing it with actual gardeners is always going to have that extra frisson.

I was delighted to welcome 42 people along for this workshop, and even more delighted they all stayed! It seemed that for many of them, an online workshop was something a bit new, and a guided visualisation definitely fresh territory. However, applying these frameworks to familiar gardening methods worked well for our enthusiasts.

The workshop lasted over an hour, but I aim to keep groups engaged by making things very interactive. There were three sections where I explained one of the Seven Seeds of Natural Happiness, such as Composting, then guided a short exercise to try it out, leaving space for comments and discussion.

The first process was the Tree Test: inviting people to imagine themselves as a fruit tree, to assess if their roots, trunk and fruits feel in balance, or if they needed to nourish their roots or prune back their branches. It felt edgy to invite a group of down-to-earth gardeners to do this, but it worked: there were several positive reactions afterwards.

I was delighted to get plenty of participation and positive comments in the feedback sections. As I’d hoped, people enjoyed starting with a familiar gardening issue, like soil condition, and discovering how they could use the parallel with their own wellbeing.

“Thank you for a great evening …. some wonderful ideas to add to our repertoires of managing ourselves in such difficult time,” one attendee said. “It was great to see so many people too. I’m off to do some stomping and breathing before I go to bed.” 

“It was such an interesting analogy between gardening and dealing with stress,” another said. “I found it very interesting and insightful this evening.”

Tricia Boyd, who organised the workshop for the Society, said later: “This workshop attracted the biggest number of Zoom participants that we’ve had so far and was very well received. 

“Gardening is an excellent analogy for Alan’s model, which clearly resonated with our members and sparked their own ideas to use,” she went on. “The set-up was smooth and professional, including a short technical rehearsal, making it very easy for us as a society to manage.”

It was enormously pleasing to see the group listen and come to life in the exercises. At the start of the workshop, I had asked for a show of hands from anyone who felt life had become more complex and bewildering in the last few years. Lots of hands went up, and this underlines how much we all need to cultivate our resilience skills in these stormy times.

This workshop is available for other gardening clubs and organisations to book: follow this link for more information.