Just a quick note to share that the first box of Leaf Your Troubles Behind landed on my doorstep last week. What a delight! The book looks just as wonderful as I’d hoped with a beautiful layout and illustrations by Kara Fellows. And most importantly, it’s packed with stories, research, and activities about how plants can boost our mental health. I can’t wait to share it with you!
To celebrate, I’m giving away copies as early as this weekend. I’ll give newsletter subscribers the first chance with the most free copies so if you haven’t subscribed to my digest, subscribe now. Then in later July, I’ll give away a couple more copies via Goodreads. If you follow me there, you should see the giveaway offer when it happens.
I’m so excited to share with you what I’ve learned about how plants can boost our happiness. For real. They do it in so many ways and the latest research is amazing. Also what’s great is plants aren’t commercial or political or even civilized. They’re just outside doing their thing, inviting us to rediscover our earliest home and relax within their realm. They’re key to lowering anxiety, depression, angst, worry, and all else. And the best news? You don’t have to garden to gain all the benefits!
I’ve created a simple system to help people dial into happiness via the natural world. And I’ll be blogging about that system in coming weeks. I’ll also put up the additional worksheets and resources that act as a companion to the book on this website in coming days. There’s so much exciting stuff, I can barely keep track!
Anyway, I hope you have a great weekend. It’s summer and hopefully not too hot where you are. Don’t forget to get outside and get some nature therapy!
Just a quick note to let you know my new novel, The Dark Petals of Provence, is now available in all formats: paperback, ebook, and even audiobook. As I mentioned in my newsletter, I was terribly disappointed when the physical book was out of stock for a while but it’s now available. Whew!
Dark Petals was inspired by the evocative yet sinister books by the French writer Marcel Pagnol. Pagnol grew up in Provence and created stories based on his childhood experiences for both literature and film.
One of the more famous of these is the book Jean de Florette, about a city lawyer who inherits his family’s country farm and decides to be a simple, gentleman farmer. But the small-minded prejudiced town blocks his progress at every turn until things come to a dramatic head. It’s a study in dark group mentality and revenge against the strength of familial love and personal dreams.
The Idea Behind the Book
I was inspired by how people behave when a newcomer arrives to disrupt things. And so, I created April Pearce, a modern-day American photographer who visits Provence to take photographs for a travel magazine. April’s in her late 30s and struggling to secure a permanent place at this company to prove to herself she’s not a career failure. But it seems all of the most fascinating shots she finds lead to trouble.
In the book, I tried to bring the hot weather, rough terrain, and alluring culture of Provence to life. I also tried to draw interesting characters whose secret pasts raise questions for the reader. April’s character reaches into my own past feelings as an outsider. And of course the story pivots on one particular plant. How else would I write a novel? haha.
Anyway, if you want more information, check out the jacket description here. And by the way, I do realize the paperback cover is not as beautifully saturated with color as the ebook cover, not sure why nor is my publisher. Regardless, you can also read tidbits on my Instagram feed or read the first chapter here.
And if you’d like to buy it, click here.
In the meantime, have a great day!
Recently I found an older book with some lasting ideas. Rory Vaden’s Take the Stairs offers great inspiration for those looking to stop procrastinating in all areas of their life. The one aspect though most people won’t want to hear is succeeding in life takes self-discipline. Vaden says you can’t succeed if you take shortcuts, like an escalator. Only if you take the stairs will you build muscle. Similarly, if you take care of the hardest tasks again and again, especiallys when you don’t feel like it, you will accomplish your goals.
Seven Principles of Self-Discipline
Vaden structures the book according to seven principles of self-discipline: sacrifice, commitment, focus, integrity, scheduling, faith, and action. Here are the most memorable things I learned from each of these.
Sacrifice. Choices that are easy in the short term are very often in direct conflict with what makes life easy in the long term.
Commitment. Changing from the question, “Should I?” to “How will I?” is the mind-set shift that makes all the difference.
Focus. Focus is about not allowing your attention to be distracted by less important tasks. The intensity of your focus is proportionate to the clarity of your vision.
Integrity. People with integrity align what they say with what they do. Achievers say they’re going to workout and then go do it. Achievers say they’re going to finish an important project that day and they do. You think it, you speak it, you act on it, and it happens.
Scheduling. We’re taught we need balance but Vaden believes we need to spend appropriate amounts of time on the priorities most critical to us.
Faith. Having faith is knowing that if you fail now, you’ll have something better waiting for you later.
Action. The three enemies of action are fear, entitlement, and perfectionism. If you let any of those three things guide you in the moment, you will procrastinate your intentions.
Overall, Vaden believes for high-achievers, success is not about skill, it’s about your will to succeed. We don’t fail because of poor circumstances, we fail because we lack discipline. Those are hard words to hear but also useful ones. Sometimes when a challenge is overwhelming and painful, it means a greater, more satisfying reward lies ahead. So we shouldn’t blame ourselves if we have a setback, just learn from it and get back on track.
Sophie Kinsella’s novel, The Undomestic Goddess, starts off with the question, “Would you consider yourself stressed?” I smiled when I saw that. It was a question the main character Samantha reads on an intake form before her massage appointment. And it so resonated with me considering this stressful pandemic life I’ve been living, that we’ve all been living, since 2020. I couldn’t stop reading. I mean, my answer to that question was “yes, without a doubt!”
As the massage starts, Samantha grows so worried about an email she forgot to send that she simply leaves the table before she can even relax. Ha, I can relate to that one. Later, after bombing out at work, she heads out of the city and is mistaken for a housekeeper applicant at a wealthy home. Can’t relate to that one, but not against it. The premise of a city attorney being mistaken for a housekeeper is pretty implausible for sure, but I ended up suspending my disbelief and going with the flow. The silly domestic life Samantha suddenly landed in mirrored my own experience well.
Trapped in a House with Lots of Housework
First of all, Samantha’s voluntarily trapped in a big house. During the pandemic, I’ve been trapped in my house, at least to varying degrees. I so related to being thrust into a situation where one’s anchored to the every day tasks of domestic life.
Second, Samantha struggles with cooking. Though I knew how to cook long before the pandemic, I leaned on eating out in restaurants and getting carry out to buffer the constant work of preparing and cleaning up after meals. During the height of the pandemic, I had to buy more groceries and plan more meals. I got more acquainted with a wider variety of foods. We ate carry-out meals a lot less often and never went to a restaurant (at least until that summer when cases were down and outdoor patios popped up). The book spoke to me there too.
And third, Samantha struggles with cleaning chores. She has trouble with the washing machine and iron and such. During the pandemic, I got more acquainted with my vacuum and dishwasher than ever. We got a new washing machine because the old one got hampered by me constantly washing clothes. Plus, with overall house cleaning before the pandemic, my kids and husband or an occasional house cleaner always helped. But with the kids stressed out over online learning and my husband working late every night, I was head house cleaner.
A Handsome Man and Hearty Humor
There’s also a romantic story line between Samantha and Nathaniel. This subplot was fine enough though the constant will-they, won’t-they question was a little tiring, maybe the only flaw of the book. The whole house and its distinct personalities were enough for me. Still, it kept the book light and sweet and I appreciated that.
Where Kinsella really shines is in the humor department. She knows how to write in a super funny voice and keep that bouncy rhythm going. Anyone who’s read her books knows she’s the queen of this quirky chick-lit style. And this book was definitely funny. Samantha’s perky personality and chatty manner charmed me.
Overall, I recommend The Undomestic Goddess. Even though the book was published in 2005, finding it now seemed like kismet for me. As Samantha switched from a super-busy work situation and highly social life to a remote country home with quotidian tasks, so did I in a sense. It was the right book at the right time for me.
During 2020, I was kinda jealous of all the folks I saw on social media producing artistic projects and launching at-home start-up companies. I didn’t have a “pandemic project” as it were and felt so lame. Then in October a close editor friend of mine asked if I wanted to work with her on “that plants and mental health” book I’d always wanted to write. She needed a practice client for her book coaching certification program. So thinking I had some knowledge that might help people, I said yes. We then had a fun four months or so solidifying the book concept, forming the proposal, and all else. Afterward, I even sold it. And now over a year later, I’m thrilled to share with you the cover of a book that will help anyone who wants more happiness in their life: Leaf Your Troubles Behind: How to Destress and Grow Happiness Through Plants.
The book features over a dozen illustrations by the amazing Colorado artist Kara Fellows. Kara’s work is modern and hip, yet fun and friendly. I adore it. Kara was my first choice for illustrations and I was so happy when she agreed to take on the project. A gardener herself, she loves plants too and brought all of my ideas to wonderful visual life. She even did the main drawing that appears on the cover: the city windowsill with the cozy collection of plants.
The Ideas Behind it All
Over the last ten years, I’ve been reading more and more scientific studies showing how plants can literally reduce stress and help productivity and performance. This scanned with my own experience of what my gardening clients told me over the years. So I dove into the psychological research on happiness as well as the latest science on plants and mental health. That combined with my own knowledge of what worked in my life led me to create a new method for growing happiness.
My hope for this book is that it will help you lower your stress and gain more peace in your life. Plus, there’s so much great research on the happy-making effects of plants, it’s fun to explore it all.
The book doesn’t come out until July, 2022, but I’ll be sharing tidbits of related advice in the next few months.
More Details, Please
If you want to learn more, rather than having me blather on, just read the description of the book. It nicely sums up what it’s about:
Have you ever felt happier after a walk in the woods or fiddling with houseplants but your hectic life stressed you out again? In our rushed, tech-based, indoor society, we may yearn for a break but only manage to get through a noisy day and collapse in bed. Regaining a peaceful mind seems beyond reach. But what if there were easy, low-cost activities to heal the soul? What if we could regularly access tranquility? How would we do that? The answer may be in the simplest, most abundant thing all around us: plants.
Plants are like a magic pill for our mental health. Growing science tells us they lower heart rates, make us more relaxed and productive, boost our immune system, help us live longer, and provide air, food, fragrance, and beauty. In Leaf Your Troubles Behind: How to Destress and Grow Happiness Through Plants, horticulturalist Karen Hugg draws on the science and two decades of professional gardening experience to help readers reduce stress and increase happiness. Through her original, approachable system of “Green Leisure,” you will:
-discover nature’s scientifically proven power to heal us from stress
-explore what “green leisure” activities are right for you
-create a soothing green lounge at home, either via plants or just photos and décor
-gain confidence in growing low-maintenance but rewarding plants, indoors and out
-develop “green leisure” habits to ensure care for your soul any time of year
With personal stories, the latest research, and fun easy-to-do activities, Karen guides readers in delving into the wonders of plants while “leafing” their daily stress behind and growing joy.
Pre-orders Are Ready to Go
You can pre-order the book through Amazon right now. In weeks to come, I’ll be planning some special giveaways for those who order by this spring. And if you’re interested, you can read what I’ve already discovered about some of the science and strategies.
Until then, I wish you a peaceful week,