Prima (UK)

‘Gardening helps restore the balance of my mind’

Elisabeth Basford, 51, is married and has two children. She lives in Barnsley and is a private tutor and writer.


My brother, Sean, died in 2013. He was 46, a much-loved teacher and very fit and healthy. He literally went to work one day and said he didn’t feel well. He went to sit in his car and died. Even now we don’t know why, it’s just classed as ‘sudden adult death’. I developed depression several months later as a delayed reaction. I suddenly felt as though an immense black cloud had decided to land on my back. I stood there unable to move for about 10 minutes. Over the next few days, I struggled to do the simplest of tasks. My husband made me an appointmen­t to see my GP. I explained what had happened and how I couldn’t even get out of bed now. ‘Do you have a garden?’ he asked suddenly.

‘A few years ago, I felt like you,’ he explained. ‘Then I discovered gardening and it all changed. You have depression. We can help you with some medication, but it will help if you do something physical.’

The tablets seemed to be taking for ever to work and I still had no

energy to do anything. But, after a couple of weeks, my husband suggested a trip to the garden centre to buy some plants. While there, I started talking to the owner who advised against planting things until we’d prepared the soil.


Spurred on by her enthusiasm and advice, over the next few days I started digging with my husband. A good spell in the garden made me sweat, and

I could feel my mood beginning to lift as endorphins were released. It started to become highly addictive.

The more I gardened, the less I worried. As the garden took shape, my own mental health started to recover. I’d still see my doctor regularly as he had requested, and the more I saw him, the more my mood seemed to have changed. By the final visit, we spent much of the time sharing gardening tips and advice.

It is more than four years since

I was diagnosed with depression. Now, I put on my gardening boots and gloves, turn on the radio and go and have a potter in the garden. It isn’t long before I feel the balance of my mind restored. On top of all that, I have something beautiful to look at and admire, as I stand back and say, ‘I did that.’➺

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