How many times have you wandered out to the garden to do a spot of deadheading and not come back for hours. And, however wet or hungry you are, it still feels good! When that happens, you’ve probably been in the ‘flow’, a state that experts believe is incredibly good for your mental health.
The concept was first proposed by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who described flow as an ideal mental state where you're so absorbed in an activity that you lose self-awareness and the track of time. It's a peaceful frame of mind, where negative thoughts quieten down and feel-good chemicals like dopamine and endorphins are released, which increases motivation and creativity.
There are lots of different conditions that need to align for you to feel truly in the flow, such as genuinely enjoying your task, having a specific goal, seeing progress and feeling physically connected, relaxed and unselfconscious. Gardening ticks a lot of these boxes, and for many of us, monitoring how plants are growing, and seeing what needs pruning or moving is creative. And, with just the right number of challenges to engage rather than bore you, it’s enough to get you in the flow.
So, next time you’ve got so stuck into weeding the veg patch or harvesting fruit that you’ve skipped lunch and forgotten the time of day, you’ve probably done your mental health, as well as your garden, a lot of good.