THE GARDEN METHOD FOR COMMUNITY WELLBEING

Why is it called the “Garden Method?”

Caring for wellbeing is much like tending a garden.

Depending on where we come from and what our experience in life has been, we all have different ways of thinking and talking about mental health. Stigma und misunderstandings often stand in the way of conversations that make way for new solutions. Interventions that work well in Europe may not necessarily translate into other cultures. This is why we’ve chosen to use the universal language of gardening to work with what we all have in common: 

A nervous system that responds similarly to stress, and to wellbeing

Just like our wellbeing, a garden can manage more or less on its own, but with a bit of extra care, it can thrive. Stress overload has an impact on our health and wellbeing, just like storms and drought will impact a garden’s harvest. Similar to how we humans can recover from hardship, a garden can regenerate with hard work, a healthy climate and help from friends.

What other parallels do you see? Please share your ideas with us, we love to learn from new voices in our conversation about mental health!

The Garden Method is easy to learn. It can be taught in group workshops or simply from friend to friend. You don’t need formal qualification to become a Garden Method Trainer. Coreszon’s training program enables community members to adapt the method to their community’s culture and share it with others. This peer-to-peer approach aims to add to communities’ existing resources, relationships and abilities. The Garden Method places a strong emphasis on social cohesion. In challenging times, the ability to work together well is an invaluable asset. It can protect the wellbeing of everyone involved and plays a vital role in how we overcome crises and hardship together.

The Method:

  • Five helpful ideas from neuroscience and developmental psychology that invite conversations about what helps us thrive as individuals, and in relationships.
  • A set of five tools to that anyone can use to reduce stress and improve wellbeing.

What you can learn:

  • How to use your body's natural ability to regulate stress to prevent mental ill-health and improve wellbeing.
  • How you can help when you notice that someone in your community is struggling.
  • How to apply current research on resilience and social neuroscience to your everyday life and relationships.

How does it work?

The Garden Method is rooted in brain science, social neuroscience and developmental psychology. It aims to enhance the ability to “know our own hearts”, or: to accurately identify how our bodies respond to wellbeing, and to distress.

In social neuroscience, this ability is called “interoceptive accuracy”. Interoception happens naturally. It helps the body respond to stress in a way that keeps us balanced. For example, with a faster heartbeat, slower breathing or tenser muscles. Most of the time, we hardly notice these “interoceptive signals”. But sometimes we become aware of “butterflies in our stomachs” or a “warm feeling in our hearts”; these are also called sensations. Sensations can be neutral, pleasant or unpleasant. 

The Garden Method helps people use pleasant or neutral sensations to regulate stress. As we all know, focusing attention on an itch or a pain will usually intensify it. But what if we focus attention on a sensation that is pleasant or neutral? Doing this is like watering the vegetables and flowers in a garden: by paying special attention to them, we can encourage them to grow and intensify. By intensifying pleasant sensations, we can kick-start our body’s natural ability to regulate stress. 

Regulating stress does’t always mean calming down. Sometimes, what we need more is a sense of strength and energy. You can try this for yourself by remembering a physical activity that you enjoy – maybe even by going through the motions. As you do this, try paying attention to what happens inside. You may notice your heart speeding up and your muscles preparing for action. Now you can ask yourself: is it pleasant, unpleasant or neutral?