World Mental Health Awareness week is upon us, with the theme this year of nature. With all the myriad ways to get out and connect to nature, The Happy Shrub wants to show people how they can bring nature into their homes and the wellbeing benefits bonsai care can yield.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) have a page on their website purporting the psychological benefits of indoor plants, it includes “improved mood”, “reduced stress levels”, “increased worker productivity” – which, now so many of us work from home is even more of an excuse to invest in some great houseplants – they also claim that in “some scientific studies” the presence of indoor plants has “improved attention span”.

There has been so much said about the current mental health crisis the UK (and likely the world), is experiencing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Studies on the matter range from focusing on how it has affected new mothers, on those with pre-existing mental illnesses and on the general population who at one point or another have likely experienced anxiety or depression since the start of the pandemic.

Our mental health services which, already stretched before the pandemic are struggling more than ever.

As a result, many of us a turning to social prescribing. Be this walking groups, swimming groups, forest bathing or gardening, many of us are looking to alternative solutions to improving wellbeing and aiding us in being more mindful.

The Happy Shrub is the brainchild of Cheshire based husband and green fingered duo, Howard and Lucy. Their online store, providing a step-by-step shopping experiencing so that each customer can find the bonsai for them, is their answer to this need or alternative solutions.

Especially targeted at home workers (but can also easily work as a desktop plant in an office), Howard and Lucy believe the ancient Japanese art of bonsai can aid in improving worker’s wellbeing.

Taking short breaks out of your working day at home or in the office to care for a bonsai can reduce the production of stress related-hormones, utilises a range of cognitive skills which helps to increase focus, increase creativity and helps people make better decisions both in their professional and private lives by being more mindful.

Upon entering the Happy Shrub website, customers can explore three different types of easy to care for bonsai trees. Customers then have the option of three different packages, the first is simply the bonsai, its pot, and a book all about that specific type of bonsai, it’s mental health benefits, how to care for it etc.

The second and third include what you get in the first but with increasing amounts of tools and accessories to optimise your bonsai care ranging from a misting bottle, bonsai scissors and sculpting wire.

Howard and Lucy are dedicated to their goal of contributing to better mental health for everyone and so, in addition to your own bonsai and wellbeing guide, every bonsai sold carries a donation to the Mental Health foundation (MHF).

The Happy Shrub teamed up with Work for Good to create this charitable relationship between themselves and MHF where they also match every donation Work for Good makes.

MHF is a pivotal mental health organisation in the UK aiding in community work, important research and running awareness programs to advocate for those living with mental health problems.

The Happy Shrub believe in “connecting mind and nature” and demonstrate this through a three pronged approach to mindfulness in bonsai care : “the principle of a focused mind” in which bonsai care allows for both focused and unfocused states of mind, “being hands on with nature” in which bonsai care gives those in home office or in office environments a connection with nature, and finally “our journey of self-assessment” in which bonsai care gives the carer a neutral setting to reflect on their behaviour and actions whilst also stimulating the problem solving parts of the brain.

Lucy and Howard are clearly very passionate about this peaceful hobby they have cultivated and want to share its positive side-effects with as many people as possible.

“We’re not highly qualified psychologists, nor are we masters of bonsai or botanists. We just want to share our hobby and help people detach from their stress. Everyone deserves some time to put their own mind first, now and again”

You can find The Happy Shrub website here, with all information on which bonsai is best for you. They also have a really interesting blog all about managing stress levels by using plant cultivation that you can read here.

They are also available on Instagram so be sure to keep an eye out for events and giveaways.