The Ultimate Secret to a Healthy Mind: Mastering the Art of Mental Gardening

Feb 25, 2024
Illustration of two hands tending a garden in a person's mind

Read time: 4 minutes

Transform your outlook and empower your mind by learning the art of "mental gardening" — A practice for clearing out negativity and cultivating inner resilience.

Imagine two typical people:

Mike starts his mornings with a moment of calm, such as prayer or meditation. His food choices are intentional – he nourishes himself with nutritious fuels for focus rather than stuffing himself into a mental fog. His commute isn't just a drive; it's an opportunity to learn and grow, listening to inspiring podcasts or audiobooks. Exercise is a non-negotiable for him, a way to unwind and keep stress at bay. Evenings are about nourishment, not just in terms of food but also through meaningful conversations and self-development, free from the constant buzz of technology, setting himself up for deep restorative sleep.

Alex, in contrast, starts his day irritated. His mornings start with a flood of alarming news, painting a world in crisis. Meals are an afterthought, often just fast food consumed in a rush between activities. His commute is filled with sensationalist radio broadcasts, heightening his feelings of helplessness and agitation. Evenings are tough for Alex. They often involve heavy drinking, leading to arguments with family over trivial matters. His evenings are spent in a blur of complaints, gossip, and blame, continuing until he's too exhausted to stay up....only to repeat it all tomorrow.

While very different in habits, Mike and Alex share one thing: their daily choices profoundly shape their minds. Mike's steady diet of uplifting inputs helps him stay positive. Alex’s barrage of negativity and mindless stimulation fuels his bitterness.

This brings us to a sobering truth: what we feed our minds shapes our inner world. Excessive negativity can overshadow the light, but even small moments of goodness can grow into significant strength over time.

Introducing Mental Gardening…

The stark contrast between Mike and Alex's daily lives leads us to the core idea of this newsletter: Mental Gardening.

This concept isn't just about steering clear of negativity. It's an active process of cultivating a healthy mental environment, much like a gardener carefully tends to their garden.

We all have bad days when negativity sprouts like weeds. But left alone, toxic thoughts put down roots, choking your happiness and success.

What if you tended your mind like a garden instead? You'd nurture focus and resilience while pulling out frustration and cynicism.

You'd take charge of your outlook each day. With small positive changes over time, you'd grow mentally strong. Your mind would feel clear and energised again.

This isn’t about “positive thinking”. This is about removing the bad and feeding the good.

Let’s dive in.

Tending Your Mental Garden: A Practical Approach

Think of your mind as a garden. In any thriving garden, two critical practices are essential:

  1. Nourishing: Just like plants, our minds need positive inputs to grow.
  2. Protecting: It's vital to shield our mental space from harmful influences.

Just as a vegetable patch requires work, so does your mental landscape.

This means being intentional about where we focus our attention and energy every day.

Cultivating good "seeds":

  • Morning meditation
  • Uplifting podcasts/books
  • Cooking a nourishing meal

Clearing the “weeds”:

  • Avoid doom-scrolling for hours
  • Stop gossip conversations
  • Don’t dwell on mistakes

It's about upgrading the quality of what we consume and absorb.

We feed the good and pull the bad. Over time, the good fills up our mind garden. Then good things grow - peace, strength, purpose.

Beyond Positive Thinking: The Tangible Impact

You might be thinking, "Is this really different from just being optimistic?" Here's the truth: Mental Gardening isn't about slapping a happy face on every situation. It's about actively identifying and clearing out the 'weeds' – these aren't just negative thoughts, but also unhelpful habits, toxic information sources, and harmful environmental influences. It's about planting and cultivating beneficial practices and inputs in your daily life.

This isn't a case of escaping reality with wishful thinking. Instead, it's about actively shaping your reality with consistent, practical actions. The impact of this is profound. It transforms not only your internal thought processes but also your interactions with others, your approach to work, and your overall worldview. This method offers a grounded and realistic approach, suitable for anyone, including those who may be sceptical of traditional self-help methods or have faced significant challenges in life.

What You Consume Impacts Your Mind

We’ve all heard “you are what you eat”. The same goes for your mind. “You are what you read, watch and listen to”.

Just as unhealthy food affects our body, the information we consume daily can shape our mental state.

If you eat junk food all day, you feel lousy. Same if you feed your mind junk all day. When you consume a steady diet of drama, negative news, or distressing content, it affects you. It can leave you feeling anxious, upset, or sad. Your mind mirrors what you feed it.

Be selective about what you allow in. Skip the nasty comments section, sensational news, toxic friends. These breed negativity, and just like weeds in a garden, they can overtake your mental space.

If you've followed a healthy food pattern, you'll understand. Like a nutritious diet leads you to crave good food, you can train your mind to seek good content over mental junk.

These daily inputs shape our inner worlds, as Mike and Alex demonstrated through their contrasting habits.


Reflecting on our daily habits and choices is crucial in Mental Gardening.

Daily inputs shape our inner worlds profoundly, whether we realise it or not.

What we feed our minds — the food, sounds, words, and habits — influences who we become and how we experience life. A steady diet of wisdom, inspiration and real nourishment cultivates an uplifted, empowered spirit. Meanwhile gorging on provocative messages and hollow stimulation dims our fire.

This leaves us with much to ponder in our own lives. What seeds am I planting in the garden of my mind each day? What weeds might need gentle (or forceful) removal?

As you reflect on your habits, consider what changes you can make to nourish and protect your mental garden for a healthier, more resilient mindset.

To making a difference,

Dr Yannick

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