Monty Don opens up about his love for gardening
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Monty Don, 65, has always found gardening a “healing activity” and a way to work through problems. It keeps him physically engaged, using all of his concentration, in a mindless way. And the therapeutic aspect and the connection to the soil is especially beneficial in winter, as it offers him relief from seasonal affective disorder.
Monty has written before about suffering from depression in the nineties, detailing how he was unable to leave his bed for weeks.
“After writing that first article 25 years ago, I realised that I almost had a duty to speak up because I had a voice,” he told Country Living.
“Since then, I’ve tried to do what I can, but I don’t like doing it, I don’t take any pride or pleasure in it. I just feel this is what I have to do.”
And Monty is affected by light, making the autumn and winter months a weird one for him.
“From the beginning to the end, there is quite a shocking difference.
“You’re gardening against the clock because you know there will be bad weather…
“But there is also this vague sense of the door closing, that everything is coming to an end.”
He said November and December are “the worst two months of the year by a long shot”.
Monty added at least by January “things are growing in small ways”.
To get through the darker days, Monty uses light therapy boxes and gardens for an hour to two in the afternoon.
He also relies on his dogs: “The thing about dogs is that they need looking after – they have to be fed, they have to be taken for a walk.
“It stops you thinking so much about yourself.”
What is seasonal affective disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern.
The NHS explains: “SAD is sometimes known as “winter depression” because the symptoms are usually more apparent and more severe during the winter.
“A few people with SAD may have symptoms during the summer and feel better during the winter.”
- a persistent low mood
- a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
- feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
- feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
- sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
- craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
You should consider seeing a GP if you think you might have SAD and you’re struggling to cope.
The main treatments are:
- lifestyle measures – including getting as much natural sunlight as possible, exercising regularly and managing your stress levels
- light therapy – where a special lamp called a light box is used to simulate exposure to sunlight
- talking therapies – such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or counselling
- antidepressant medicine – such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
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