101 Ways to be Happy #2: thinking of spring

I had a notion that I was going to write a series of blog posts about 101 ways to stay happy in the face of whatever life throws at you, but after my first post on the subject (101 Ways to be Happy #1: five days on the Jurassic Coast), other stuff has got in the way, and I’ve not managed to continue the series. Such is life with an unpredictable health condition. But I’m feeling much better, and getting back to myself so I’m going to pick it up again.

It’s November, the leaves are dropping from the trees, there’s a frost in the air. It’s hard to believe that only a few short months ago we were sweltering. I always find this time of year hard, being forced inside by dark weather, the sun disappearing all too soon. I know all about the ways to avoid a low mood – get outside in whatever meagre sunshine there is, be active – but fail to actually do them, feeling an uncontrollable urge to hunker down on the sofa and go into semi-hibernation.

I mean, every year, to plant some bulbs in the autumn, but I’ve never got round to it. I’m not a very good gardener, I get distracted and forget to water the plants, or I plant things in the wrong place and they die. But bulbs are so easy, you plant them, and like clockwork they reappear every year, so ideal for the half-hearted would-be gardener.

This year, the stars aligned and I finally managed to get a couple of pots, some bulbs, and some compost all at the same time, and a sunny day to put it all together.

In my pots, I planted a ‘bulb lasagne’ – layers of bulbs, later-flowering ones at the bottom and earlier-flowering ones at the top, with a thin layer of compost between each layer. At the top I planted crocuses, hoping to see them sprouting in February – just when winter is at its bleakest, and at the bottom freesias, my favourite flower, looking forward to them scenting the patio during summer days in the garden.

It’s easy to do, and I hope the impact in the garden will far outweigh the effort. But doing this little bit of gardening had a far more important impact on my mood. Apart from having a simple task to focus on, which helps your mind to stay occupied, in the moment, planting bulbs is such a triumph of hope over the (for me) despair of the coming winter months. The knowledge that these bulbs will sprout in the spring, whatever happens, is so soothing. Resigning myself to the inexorable passage of seasons, the patterns of nature that endure despite everything, was a really valuable way to take my mind out of the negative rut it threatened to be stuck in and withdraw from my day to day worries. A reminder that, no matter how bleak and dark things seem, it will soon be spring again.

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