Sue Stuart-Smith, "The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature (Scribner, 2020)

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Sue Stuart-Smith, who is a distinguished psychiatrist and avid gardener, offers an inspiring and consoling work about the healing effects of gardening and its ability to decrease stress and foster mental well-being in our everyday lives.

The garden is often seen as a refuge, a place to forget worldly cares, removed from the “real” life that lies outside. But when we get our hands in the earth we connect with the cycle of life in nature through which destruction and decay are followed by regrowth and renewal. Gardening is one of the quintessential nurturing activities and yet we understand so little about it.

The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature (Scribner, 2020) provides a new perspective on the power of gardening to change people’s lives. Here, Sue Stuart-Smith investigates the many ways in which mind and garden can interact and explores how the process of tending a plot can be a way of sustaining an innermost self.

Stuart-Smith’s own love of gardening developed as she studied to become a psychoanalytic psychotherapist. From her grandfather’s return from World War I to Freud’s obsession with flowers to case histories with her own patients to progressive gardening programs in such places as Rikers Island prison in New York City, Stuart-Smith weaves thoughtful yet powerful examples to argue that gardening is much more important to our cognition than we think.

Recent research is showing how green nature has direct antidepressant effects on humans. Essential and pragmatic, The Well-Gardened Mind is a book for gardeners and the perfect read for people seeking healthier mental lives. It is also available as an audio book read by the author.

Sue Stuart-Smith, a prominent psychiatrist and psychotherapist, took her degree in English literature at Cambridge before qualifying as a doctor. She worked in the National Health Service for many years, becoming the lead clinician for psychotherapy in Hertfordshire. She currently teaches at The Tavistock Clinic in London and is consultant to the DocHealth service. She is married to Tom Stuart-Smith, the celebrated garden designer, and, over thirty years together, they have created the wonderful Barn Garden in Hertfordshire.

Dr. Christina Gessler’s background is in women’s history and literature. She specializes in the diaries written by rural American women in the 19th century. In seeking the extraordinary in the ordinary, Gessler writes the histories of largely unknown women, poems about small relatable moments, and takes many, many photos in nature.

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