Natural Happiness: How to Nourish Ourselves and Nourish the Planet

Natural Happiness: how to nourish ourselves and nourish the planet by Alan Heeks
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Natural Happiness: how to nourish ourselves and nourish the planet by Alan Heeks

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Natural Happiness: how to nourish ourselves and nourish the planet

We all need stronger ways to stay cheerful and steady in these turbulent times. In fact, nourishing ourselves is vital to enable us to nourish our ailing planet. I’ve found help from a surprising source: organic gardens and farms. There are powerful parallels between sustainability for the land and for our own human nature.

I discovered this when I got burned out in my successful business career and followed a wild impulse to start a 130-acre organic farm from scratch with zero farming experience. People sometimes compare themselves to a complex mechanism, like a car or computer, but that’s too simplistic. We are living organisms, like a garden. Cultivated natural ecosystems, such as an organic garden or farm, are a better guide to growing our own happiness, showing us how to steer an organism to a positive outcome using natural growth methods. I call this approach the Gardener’s Way: whether you’re a gardener or not, it’s easy to use. The parallels are simple, and all explained in my new book, Natural Happiness.

In The Gardener’s Way, see yourself as both the garden and the gardener. You are a natural organism, like the garden, and you’re also the gardener who brings love and brains to cultivate the earth. It’s clear that you can’t understand a garden from a purely physical point of view. Feelings, intuition, and inspiration are involved. Natural Happiness can guide you to bring these subtler qualities into your work, home life, groups, and community projects.

This book is a practical guide to growing your own happiness. There are no instant fixes, but this is a grounded, practical approach which you can easily learn. It will help you to understand how human nature works and how to cultivate it, like a gardener, using natural principles. For example:

  • Deepening your roots and resilience
  • Finding new sources of natural energy
  • Composting difficulties to provide fresh insights and momentum
  • Strengthening your co-creative skills so you handle problems more positively
  • Growing support and resilience in groups such as your local community
  • Evolving positive approaches to big issues, especially climate change
Organic gardens are a guide to cultivating human nature too
Organic gardens are a guide to cultivating human nature too

Compost your troubles

Here’s a practical example from the book: Imagine harnessing a major source of energy that’s already within you: it’s free and abundant and just needs a bit of effort to process. What’s more, you’ll create benefits from problems that drain energy and pollute your inner ecosystem. This is what composting offers you.

In a natural system, there is no waste. Composting in gardens and farms starts with rubbish, animal dung, and rotting vegetable matter. All this ‘waste’, useless in these forms, ends up as humus, highly fertile, able to renew the earth’s vitality. Now imagine the waste that’s stuck in your ecosystem: emotions, mental worry, and maybe a sense of pointlessness. And feel how great it would be to clear out this waste and turn it into fresh energy and insights.

Consider how much of your energy is tied up in negative emotions like anger, or in anxious thoughts and mental stress. Composting can help you turn all this into positive energy and insights, but it’s a new skill which takes patience. In the book, you will find several ways to practice composting and use it with other people.

Composting waste in the garden raises the vitality and resilience of your soil and avoids the pollution and depletion caused by artificial fertiliser. Physical composting takes several months, but the human equivalent can happen in minutes, days or weeks. Plant and animal waste usually look bad and smell worse. Yet they are a valuable resource if we can change their form; the same is true of human energy waste. The book has clear self-help processes to help you with your own composting. 

Growing through climate change

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed about the climate crisis: one of my aims with this book is to provide a gentle way to engage with eco issues. So, the early chapters focus on nourishing yourself, and the later chapters explore community collaboration and how to grow through climate change. So, although there’s plenty to worry about in the climate crisis, I also see big upsides, especially in the coming together of closer human communities and links to local organic food cultivation.

There has been a lot of interest in regenerative agriculture, and it gives us pointers to creating regenerative human culture. Currently, ecosystems and human systems (individuals, communities, and support systems like healthcare) are depleted and overstressed. The essence of regeneration is to restore vitality and resilience using natural processes where possible. One of the best examples of this approach is regenerative agriculture: this means recovering the depth and fertility of topsoils, which in many places are depleted by soil runoff and the use of chemicals. 

Let’s look at some regenerative principles and see how they map across:

  • A key is reducing intensity: cutting down your expectations on output levels so that you need fewer resources. If we humans can eat more simply, travel less far, etc., we reduce our demands on the planet.
  • Choosing traditional varieties of wheat, grass, etc., which may produce less but are robust in storms and drought. For people, this means finding systematic ways to deepen their roots and grow their resilience.

Organic communities

Communities are becoming more important for all of us: they’re a great way to get mutual support and use resources effectively. Organic ecosystems are resilient communities which we can learn a lot from. For example, diversity helps resilience, and this is true for human groups too. We also know that trees and other plants share nutrition through root connections, which is a great pointer for people too.

There are thousands of wonderful projects raising resilience in local communities, and this growth in supportive, empowered groups is one of the upsides of the current situation. You can share my projects that explore this at

Natural Happiness can help us to feel ourselves as part of the natural environment, and to nourish both more deeply. To see more of the resources in the book, or to order it, go to

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