Lessons in playfulness from my garden weeds

‘What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered’- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Although I didn’t realise it at the time, one of the most playful things I have done recently is to sign up for a course called ‘Weeds and Wild Medicine.’  Once a month I spend the day with a group of like-minded souls, roaming local parkland gathering samples of wild-growing plants, in readiness to transform them into healing balms, lotions or tonics. We have to be prepared to experiment with different tastes and sensations as we discover the unique properties of each plant- bitter, astringent, warming and soothing, opening up our narrowed senses. We are encouraged to be creative with our plant combinations for each concoction, using learned knowledge and felt intuition to make our choices.

Much to the amusement (and sometimes annoyance) of my family and friends, I can no longer walk past a weed-covered grass verge without pointing out something that I recognise and describing its multiple uses. Dandelions, nettles, cleavers and daisy are no longer seen as nuisances, but as entities in their own right having endless potential! This course is a great reminder of how we can sustain ourselves through valuing the resources we have already got- it may just be that we have never really acknowledged those things as having a use.


Seeing things with new eyes- like the grass verges- is my way of cultivating a more playful attitude towards the things around me that I previously took for granted.

When did you last look at something familiar with fresh eyes? What resources do you already have in your life that you may be taking for granted? Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear about your experiences.


An unexpected adventure

 ‘Life is either a daring adventure or nothing’- Helen Keller

I had the long weekend all mapped out. After the ravages of winter, our wooden front door was badly in need of a coat of paint. The weather was set fair and it felt like the perfect opportunity to get it done. My plan was to suggest to my husband that he set to work on this and I could start to grapple with the overflowing basket of ironing that I had been trying to ignore for the last three weeks. After that, there’d still be time for us to join forces and tackle the weeds that were shooting up through the gravel yard at an ever-increasing pace.

And then my husband announced that as the forecast was for three continuous days of sunshine, it was the perfect weekend for him to attempt the challenge he’d been planning for the past few months- a 66 mile hike in the Lake District, scaling 42 of its highest peaks. I was apparently to be involved of day one of this epic- specifically to transport him to the starting point, hike together for 16 miles and then camp overnight in a tiny tent.

A taste of things to come

I reacted. I complained about his lack of collaboration, told him he was inconsiderate and that he had no idea about what was really important.

But he wouldn’t budge. Should I stick to my guns too or give in and bend to his will? I knew he had a point- neither of us could remember the last time we’d been able to enjoy a few days of sun. We’d often talked about wanting to do more hiking together. I often regretted not being able to spend more time exploring outdoors. And then I remembered my pact to be more spontaneous. Here was the ideal opportunity and I was railing against it.

Twenty-four hours later, sitting on my camping mat, hurriedly spooning in mouthfuls of rehydrated spaghetti bolognaise, my mind flashed back to the day we’d just had. Scrambling, trudging up and sliding down scree-ridden mountainsides. Wondering who’d come up with the tongue-twisting names for some of those lofty peaks like Harrison Stickle, Pike O’Blisco and Stickle Pike. Along the way, I’d laughed as I spotted flocks of native Herdwick sheep, striped in rainbow colours of red, blue, green and orange dye, as indicators of ownership.

Two young Herdwicks



In deepest Eskdale, we’d passed the signpost to the entrance of a woodland called ‘Giggle Alley’, apparently containing a hidden Japanese garden being restored to its former glory by the locals. I took this as a sign that I’d done the right thing.

When did you last say ‘yes’ to an unexpected change of plan and how did it work out for you?


What do we really mean when we say ‘have fun’?

‘Have fun’ is probably my most overused phrase. I say it to work colleagues when I know they’ve got a particularly tough day ahead. I use it at home when my husband has a daunting meeting to attend that day. I say it because I want them to know that I’m in their corner, that I’ve been there too and I’m cheering them on. But if I sit back and think about it, more often than not, rather than lifting the atmosphere, this phrase is greeted by a half-hearted smile bordering on a grimace and a word of thanks uttered through gritted teeth.
What I really mean by those to words is- see if you can adopt a playful attitude towards whatever comes up. But how often do I apply this to myself, especially in the face of a difficult day?

If we recognised the benefits of playfulness for adults and in particular, those in the therapy professions, it might be a little easier to take on board. A recent survey of psychologists found that 46 percent classed themselves as depressed and 70 percent as stressed. Science tells us that playful adults live on average 10 years longer than those who are less playful and that playful people find fewer situations to be stressful compared to the more serious amongst us. 
Digging around in the research, there are four main qualities that are said make up a playful adult, including being:

  • Relaxed and free-spirited
  • Fun and lively
  • Spontaneous
  • Creative

I’d like to add the qualities of exploration and flexibility to these too. In future posts, I’ll be blogging about the challenge I’ve set myself to bring these qualities and attitudes into my day-to-day life.

We can also rekindle our relaxed, free-spirited, fun, lively, spontaneous and creative selves by reconnecting with what we enjoyed doing as children. Whenever I think about some of the things I loved to do as a child, I immediately feel lighter and more naturally ‘me.’ As part of my journey, I’ll be blogging about some of my favourite childhood activities too-moving me in the direction of becoming a truly Tickled Shrink!