David Shreeve reviews Rachel Kelly’s inspirational new workbook.

  Rachel Kelly recently took part in our second Green Health Live event at Lambeth Palace. The day aimed to encourage a greater awareness of therapeutic gardening specially to combat depression and the effects of mental illness. Rachel has a rare gift of being able to talk publically about her major battles fighting depression and how, despite the odds and the severity of her depression at a time when her young family needed her most, she managed to combat two serious bouts of the illness.
Rachel has been a friend of The Conservation Foundation for some time ever since she helped judge the Gardening Against the Odds Awards created in memory of another depression sufferer who, sadly, lost her fight. Since then Rachel has kept us supplied with copies of her various books and she kindly gave me a signed copy of her latest – ‘Singing in the Rain’, 52 Practical Steps to Happiness – an inspirational workbook.
Rachel suggests in the foreword that it should be ‘read as the fancy takes you – dip in and out’. So this is not a lengthy read and there is no need for anyone, who like Rachel, is paying the cost of working too much with little chance of being immersed in a pot boiler, not to find odd moments to read a page or two at a time.  Dipping in and out as I did I felt I was reading notes from a friend which had been left around the house for me to pick up and take on board and mull over.  It was almost as if Rachel was just few steps ahead leaving notes on scraps of paper, some illustrated with simple sketches just to be helpful and adding encouragement, for me to find.
Although Rachel encourages her readers to take one subject idea on board for a while I found myself completing one and then thinking that maybe I could find a bit more time to read another.
Whilst some of the subjects demand a little more input like ‘Rethinking mistakes’ and ‘Managing time’ there is much to add lightness like ‘playing like a child’, ‘being happy not perfect’ and ‘celebrating’ –  even ‘climbing a tree’. Counting and recording the numbers of smiles each day is a natural follow-on from the importance of laughter.  As Rachel points out laughter, even smiling, makes humans different from all God’s creatures. Which is surely something to celebrate.
Remembering loved ones is worth a mention for whilst they may be no more they can live on for ever in our memories.  Rachel remembers a granny whenever she is gardening.
I have just been involved in creating a new piece of music.  As a friend has pointed out whatever happens to me that music will last forever.  I like that thought so my personal practical steps to happiness now add up to 53!