Today we have the pleasure of chatting with Alan Heeks about mental health and his wonderful book Natural Happiness.

Please can you introduce yourself to our readers?

I am a writer, workshop leader and gardener, living in Hay-on-Wye in the Welsh Borders. My passion is supporting the wellbeing of people and Nature. I feel very blessed to have evolved the Natural Happiness approach which helps with both. This has grown from my experiences starting an organic farm from scratch, having dropped out of a successful business career with burnout.

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Tell us a little about natural Happiness and why you wanted to write the book?

Organic farming was a revelation to me. I realised that we humans spend a lot of time trying to impose control and deny the complexities of life. Whereas organic farmers have to work with them. Translating organic cultivation methods to human nature has helped me a lot, and hundreds of others in workshops I’ve run. So I wrote the book to share this experience more widely.

What experiences helped you in writing Natural Happiness?

The many Natural Happiness workshops I’ve run helped a lot. Both in finding the best language to express the ideas, and also in case studies of how they worked in practice. Some of these I have adapted for the book. What has also helped was my garden at home. I wrote a lot of the book there. When I got stuck, I would do some practical gardening, and let a solution come through my subconscious.

The book takes a unique approach to self-discovery and improving your mental health, gardening!  Why such a different approach to this topic?

We really do live in times which are getting ever crazier. The deluge of social media, fake news, and alarming world events means that it is very easy to feel overwhelmed and bewildered. This book helps people to connect with and learn from nature in a really deep way, which is an antidote to the craziness. Seeing how this approach helps even ultra-stressed NHS doctors convinced me it is worth sharing.

We loved the chapter ‘Compost Your Troubles.’  There is a lot of useful information and exercises to help people deal and importantly, reflect on the issues they are facing.  Do you feel practical exercises are important in a person’s journey to better mental wellbeing?  Why is this?

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Photo by Toni Reed on Unsplash

Of my Seven Seeds of Natural Happiness, this is the one that people relate to most quickly and get most excited about! I think there are parallels between mental health and physical health: for both, you need to be careful about your intakes, and exercises of the right kind can help. Processes like Composting have a really tangible, physical dimension which helps to engage with them. And in asking people to use the exercise on real situations in their life, I hope to engage them fully, and show them benefits quickly.

The Diamond Process is something you explore in your book.  We hadn’t heard of this before and found it intriguing.  What about this particular process do you think is valuable in helping people move forward and improve their lives?

Over the years I have realised that many people, including me, find uncertainty difficult, and conflict with other people really stressful. Often we make a hasty decision just to get out of the discomfort. I first found the concept of co-creativity at Findhorn, a spiritual community in Scotland, and I evolved the Diamond Process as a way of sharing it.

Nature can be extremely beneficial when looking to boost or improve mental health.  There is lots of evidence to suggest that just being outside, surrounded by nature can make a difference.  Natural Happiness harnesses this idea wonderfully, with the analogy of gardening running through it in its entirety.  Do you feel that only people who understand gardening and enjoy nature can benefit from this?

You certainly don’t need to be a gardener to get the benefits of this book. All of us are familiar with basic ideas like roots, seeds and fruits, and the gardening concepts are all explained in the book.

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Photo by Sandie Clarke on Unsplash

You delve into community as well.  This can be quite daunting for some people, building or finding community.  Do you believe that this is vital to achieving natural happiness?

We live in a society which is overly focussed on individuals and private households, yet we live in a time of rising disruption from climate change and related issues, which I believe means that mutual support from community is becoming increasingly crucial, and ecosystems are a great role model for this.

What is your favourite part of the book and why?

I love the whole book, but my favourite part is Chapter 6, Growing through Climate Change. I’m involved with several climate response projects, and it pains me that so many people feel overwhelmed by the climate crisis and can’t engage with it. My hope with this chapter is to provide a gentle entry path and a range of frameworks and processes to help people face into the situation. I am excited by the parallels between regenerative agriculture and regenerative humanculture!

If you could be represented by any plant, what would it be and why did you choose that particular one?

A beech tree: these are my favourite trees, and I’ve spent a lot of time sitting with and talking with one particular beech at Hazel Hill Wood. I feel that the beech has qualities of deep-rooted wisdom and graceful resilience which I aspire to.

We all have something that keeps us rooted, that gives us the motivation to improve.  What is your one thing?

For me, it’s the natural world: it nourishes our bodies and souls with food and beauty, and keeps giving abundantly. I hope that my book helps us to appreciate this abundance, and learn more deeply from it.

The Wonder Collection

The Wonder Self-Care Journal! We believe self-care is vital to great mental health.  What is your go to self-care activity and why?

Sitting with trees: this is a great way to relax more deeply, enjoy the beauty of Nature, and open to wisdom from other dimensions.

The Wonder Mix Tape! What song/artist do you find uplifting and listening to it/them boosts your mood?

Mozart, Bach, Crosby, Stills & Nash.

The Wonder Bookshelf! Can you recommend a book to our readers.  Fiction, non-fiction, feel good or advice giving.  Why did you choose this book?

Desert Wisdom, by Neil Douglas-Klotz: if I was on Desert Island Discs, this is the one book I’d take with me. It’s a brilliant collection of insights from many spiritual traditions.

The Wonder Sketchbook!

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You can get a copy of Alan’s book, Natural Happiness and his unique approach to mental health by visiting his website.

You can find lots of articles about happiness throughout The Wonderment too. Don’t forget to join the conversation on social media.  You can find us on TikTok, Instagram, Threads, Facebook and Twitter. Alan is on Facebook and Twitter.

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About Author

Erika is bright, bubbly and friendly. Studying to be a counsellor, she is committed to helping others in the pursuit of better mental health. Having suffered from mental health issues herself including severe anxiety and PTSD, she wants to show others that the light at the end of the tunnel is not just a cliché!
Erika enjoys spending time with her little one, friends and family, crafting, reading, writing, music gaming, cooking, creating art, cacti and llamas.

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