By Megan Smiley, May 3 2018 04:05PM

With Spring here, it being National Gardening Week and the house refurbishment being pretty much finished (apart from a million little niggling jobs that may not get done for a good while yet, if ever!), I turned my attention to our garden. It is a lovely garden and a great space but has been neglected for nearly 10 years so in need of some major TLC.

My previous gardening experience is somewhat limited, comprising of a metre squared yellow box I used to grow a handful of vegetables from in west London. So with a 30 metre long garden as well as a front garden, with very little knowledge and measly amount of experience, I set upon them! Luckily I have a helpful gardening consultant on lovely Mum!

So far I’ve ripped out lots of ivy, brambles and dead stuff, cut back various shrubs and bushes, and planted my first lot of vegetables. But as with the house, things seem to have got worse before they will, hopefully, get better. Instead of an overgrown garden, we now have a slightly less overgrown garden with lots of piles of garden waste in it.

So I am yet to see the fruits (or veg) of my labour in terms of the appearance of the garden, however what I have achieved is something less tangible but possibly more important, and what I often think of as benefits of exercise, in particular exercising outdoors.

I’m talking about the mental and physical benefits of gardening. It is that perfect level of having to think about what you’re doing so that your mind doesn’t wander too much but not too challenging that it becomes taxing. Therefore it’s very relaxing and has a meditative quality to it. Then there are the physical benefits. I tell you I think I’m pretty strong and fit but gardening is quite a workout. It requires strength, balance, co-ordination, explosive power, you name it and there will be a job in the garden that will cover it!

I also think nurturing living things to grow and develop is very therapeutic and rewarding, giving you a sense of accomplishment and a connection to nature. Then there’s the benefit of being outdoors getting fresh air and if you’re lucky enough some sunshine, soaking up that important vitamin D the sun dishes out. So all in all I am sold on this gardening stuff, which is a good thing as I’ve got plenty to do!

By Megan Smiley, May 4 2016 04:34PM

Mindfulness – meditation techniques to create awareness of internal (yourself) and external (your surroundings) elements to improve your well-being – has most definitely been one of the buzz words of 2016. It has moved from the world of the juice drinking, yoga practising (complete stereotype I know) people to the mainstream, with companies providing employees with workshops and talks on mindfulness and being prescribed on the NHS for patients.

Although many people have practised meditation for years; yoga is increasingly popular and various well-being activities are more and more readily available, it is now a much more widely accepted and practised concept, just look at the adult colouring books around at the moment!

For those who know me you’ll probably have heard about the Wheel of Life. It’s a life reviewing system I created years ago. I have harped on and shown many a friend on the back of a napkin/ beermat about it over the years! It has five areas: health, wealth, friends and family, love life, and work life. You assess your Actual Wheel and then create an Action Wheel. There need to be enough areas of the wheel fulfilled to move along nicely in life. However, if everything is completely fulfilled it can lead to the wheel moving too quickly and problems can arise. e.g. you always need something to strive towards. I review my Wheel of Life every six months and it gives me focus, peace of mind and sometimes a much needed kick up the bum to get going on an area! This may be a little too hippy-esk or structured for some so this is where the 3Ms come in.

Whilst recently chatting to my mum about mindfulness she mentioned her 3Ss: singing, sport and silence. She explained this was an idea she first thought of back in her 20s, so quite a while before mindfulness had become a thing! And that she thought the combination of the three things helps you achieve the mental well-being that we’re all talking about. I had to point out to my mum that the 3Ss had taken on a new meaning sometime in the past 40 years, and it was probably best to update, hence the 3Ms: music, movement and moments. I actually prefer the 3Ms as it’s a little more inclusive, music over singing and movement over sport, but the same concept.

So if you like the idea of mindfulness but aren’t sure where or how to start, I suggest giving the 3Ms a go. Music, be it listening, playing, watching, is a great way to immerse yourself in a world of creativity, inspiration and beauty where you can let your everyday worries drift away. Movement, be it sport, yoga, dancing, walking, it’s a great way to achieve both physical and mental well-being. Moments, taking a step back from life, the busyness, and the endless to-do list, is so important and I think becoming harder to do these days. With smartphones, whenever you have a minute you don’t take a moment, instead of gazing out of the a window on a bus, out pops the phone and you respond to that email, check social media, pay that bill or any of the other million things you ‘need’ to do.

So over the next few weeks aim to get your intake of Ms in whatever way suits you, and I have no doubt that your overall well-being will benefit!