Natural Happiness – The Gardener’s Way: connect with Nature to grow your wellbeing and resilience.

How can we stay happy when there’s too much change and uncertainty?  Are there ways to bounce back and thrive if everyday life and work is getting us down?  The answer is to cultivate yourself like a garden, and grow your own wellbeing by learning from nature. The times we’re in are tough: it’s clear that we need new approaches to thrive in all this.  Natural Happiness is a simple, practical guide which can help in your personal life, your work, and living with the wider issues. It will show you how to cultivate your own human nature, and tend yourself like a garden: deepen your roots, and grow happily through all kinds of weather.

Life these days is so complex that we need models and parallels to learn from. You might think there are useful comparisons with systems like computers or cars, but human nature is far subtler. People are organisms: constantly changing, and with this interactions between physical, emotional, mental and other aspects. A much better parallel is cultivated natural eco-systems: farms, gardens or forests where rules of nature apply, but people are trying to shape nature to achieve the outcomes they want. For over 20 years, Alan Heeks has been exploring what people can learn from these parallels for their life and work

Alan comments “I never set out to become a pioneer in the parallels between natural ecosystems and people’s wellbeing and resilience, but it has turned out that way. Nature has been a huge comfort and refuge for me ever since my unhappy teenage years, but the real catalyst for Natural Happiness came in 1989, when I felt a calling to create a major learning-based centre, using some of the capital I’d made from a successful business venture. Fuelled by excitement, determination and naive ignorance of what I was getting into, within a year I had set up an education charity, and we had bought a run down 130-acre farm in West Dorset. Ten years turning this into a flourishing mixed organic farm and innovative education centre is what taught me about organic cultivation from the roots up.

After seven years of this, in 1997, I realised that people and work teams could learn a huge amount about human sustainability from the parallels with a cultivated ecosystem like this organic farm. Since then, I have refined the model further by creating a 1-acre garden with my wife at our home in Bridport, and through many years’ involvement with conservation forestry at Hazel Hill Wood.”

Cultivating Natural Happiness

Alan explains the gift of his unique approach and how it can help you.

THE SEVEN SEEDS OF NATURAL HAPPINESS

 

Alan’s unique approach is summed up with seven key principles:

  • Balance and review your resources and outputs (roots and fruits): transform negative feelings and problems into positive insights and energy.
  • Cultivate your ecosystem: use natural energy sources and gardening methods like crop cycles and mulching to sustain you in life and work.
  • Compost the crap – the upsides of downsides: learn to transform negative feelings and problems, by ‘composting’ them.
  • Shaping nature – the co-creative way: new skills to handle uncertainty, thrive without control, reap natural wisdom, and ‘change the story’.
  • Finding strength from community: natural approaches for mutual support and sharing resources, in groups and teams of all kinds.
  • Natural inspiration: how to root and cultivate a bigger perspective, a vision that motivates you.
  • Life as a garden: local, natural, personal: enjoy each moment, grow the quality of connections, smell the flowers!

For a fuller description of The Seven Seeds of Natural Happiness, click here 

The Odyssey: a guide to mens’ long voyage to find themselves

I’ve been pondering mens’ life journeys for many years: not just my own, but other men I’ve witnessed in mens’ gatherings and ongoing groups. Re-reading Homer’s Odyssey, I realise how brilliantly relevant it is to all this. Words like archetypal and heroic get...

Working with Nature in Mind

Reclaiming our mental health and well-being through systemic thinking and ecopsychology practice. Guest blog by Roger Duncan We are currently living in strange and unsettling times, where it seems that contemporary culture is sleepwalking into a spiralling series of...

Brexit: An Uncivil War – TV docudrama

In hindsight, what could possibly go right? This 2-hour programme from Channel 4 is well worth seeing. Not only will you learn how we all got into the Brexit crisis, it will show you how the present and future game of politics is played. Let’s start with what this...

Southern Morocco: a great place to learn about the roots of happiness

For many years, I’ve found that trips to so-called less developed countries give me priceless reminders of how to live more happily back home in 2018 Britain.  This was certainly true of the group trip I co-led to Morocco in November 2018. I called this trip the Roots...

Donald Trump and the Second Coming

This guest blog was written by Maria Trap, and is reproduced with her permission.It seems a suitable Christmas blog, though the plan’s not quite working as hoped… After more than 2000 years since the birth of his son God felt that it was more than time to stage the...

Re-learning daily happiness in Morocco

It starts with the way people greet you, seeking a real connection: with eye contact, a slow warm handshake, and the traditional blessing: A salaam alaikum, Peace be with you. I’ve been fortunate to visit North and East Africa many times, and I’m always struck by two...

How can we get beyond compassion fatigue?

The UN’s hope in designating this day, on August 19, is to ask all of us to remember and support the large numbers of people caught up in humanitarian crises around the world, and the many brave people who are involved in relief work, mediation and more. For myself...

The Overstory by Richard Powers

If you love trees, you’ll find this book fascinating: it’s a rich exploration of both trees and people, as individuals and groups, and how closely these two species affect each other. The Overstory follows the stories of a variety of humans – the common thread is that...

Lifestyle sustainability: The New Green Frontier

Why are consumer attitudes to energy saving, and even those of policy makers, so preoccupied with home heating?  I think it’s because this is a pretty easy, safe, non-controversial sector.  Who could possible object to pensioners getting help with loft insulation, or...

Football as a map of the inner life

Deep insights from the World Cup With all the excitement of the World Cup, it seems appropriate to use football as a guide or metaphor for the inner life, or as one book title puts it, the game of life and how to play it. The image of the club is like your image in...

The Natural Advantage

 This pioneering book translates the principles and practices of organic farming, cultivated natural systems and sustainable development to show how individuals, teams and organisations can grow their resilience to stress, change and uncertainty,

 

USEFUL RESOURCES

USEFUL RESOURCES

 

These are some of the specific tools and processes which Alan has created as part of the Natural Happiness approach.

 

  • Composting: the upsides of your downsides. Imagine that you can tap into a major new source of energy and insight, that’s already within you: it’s free, abundant, and just needs a bit of effort to process it.

 

  • Mapping Your Wild Margins. This matrix can help you recognise and value wild margins in yourself, or you could use it for a group such as a work team

 

  • The Seven Seeds Of Natural Happiness. These are the essence of the natural systems approach I’ve evolved over twenty years. Ways to use these seven principles are explained in other sections below.

 

To see the full list of Natural Happiness Resources

 

Creative Ageing Blogs

Enjoying your elderhood

The term elder is used with various meanings: I’m using it to invite you to connect with the mature wisdom in yourself, and in our ancestors. Traditional tribal cultures, such as the Native Americans, Celts, and Bedouin, had great wisdom, including the role of the...

read more

Natural Happiness Blogs

Working with Nature in Mind

Reclaiming our mental health and well-being through systemic thinking and ecopsychology practice. Guest blog by Roger Duncan We are currently living in strange and unsettling times, where it seems that contemporary culture is sleepwalking into a spiralling series of...

read more

Brexit: An Uncivil War – TV docudrama

In hindsight, what could possibly go right? This 2-hour programme from Channel 4 is well worth seeing. Not only will you learn how we all got into the Brexit crisis, it will show you how the present and future game of politics is played. Let’s start with what this...

read more

Resilent Futures Blogs

Getting Centered Amid Confusion: The Treeheart Process

Life and work get more confusing year by year, and that’s unlikely to stop in future. Spending time in Nature is a great way to reduce its stress and find clarity, but what do you do when you have to make a decision, in your workplace or at home, within the next few...

Future Outlook: beyond resilience

RESOURCE SHEET This sheet highlights resources relevant to Alan Heeks’ workshop at CCC19, and for his work generally. IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE It seems that there is little research on impacts, using the latest data on the acceleration of climate change itself. Many...

The 8 Dimensions of Super-Resilience: How to grow into the 2020’s

Would you agree that for most people, life and work have become a lot more demanding and uncertain in recent years? And is that trend likely to grow in future? If so, what’s the positive response to the evolutionary challenge? This is what I’m calling...

Enjoying your elderhood

The term elder is used with various meanings: I’m using it to invite you to connect with the mature wisdom in yourself, and in our ancestors. Traditional tribal cultures, such as the Native Americans, Celts, and Bedouin, had great wisdom, including the role of the...

Deep ecology: a way to face the future

If you’re working with hazardous materials, you need good methods and equipment. The future really is hard to face: it can easily feel bleak and overwhelming. Many people feel pain and despair about the state of the world and the environment, and blank out to avoid these feelings.

One of the best processes I’ve found for facing this pain, and moving on to face the future constructively, is called Deep ecology.

Seeding our Future Project

Resilience and wisdom to stay happy in the years ahead PROJECT OVERVIEW INTRODUCTION: The present is already so uncertain and demanding that most of us don’t want to consider the future.  But surely the pressures and changes we face now are likely to...

Discerning, Valuing, Tolerating

Here are some specific ways to handle a crisis situation, whether personal, local or national.   Discerning Beware of scapegoats and puffball simplistic solutions: they both pop up in many crises. Realise that you and other are heated about this situation, and...

Mapping your wild margins

This matrix can help you recognise and value wild margins in yourself, or you could use it for a group such as a work team. Start by listing a few activities, skills, interests which may seem marginal and unproductive. Then explore how they could help you, and how you...

Cycles of progress map

This tool is an invitation to map your progress over time, including the ups and downs, and to celebrate both, and see if there are any cycles involved.   During my 20 years in business management and my Harvard MBA studies, progress was always defined as linear...

Using humour to defuse tensions

Do you ever feel that you spend hours in a state of high alert, where one more hassle feels like the last straw? The research quoted in our November issue (book blog - Your Brain On Nature) shows that many of us do indeed spend far too long in this state. To help you...

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