Daily Stress ReLeaf
You might not think you have time to lower your stress because you have too much to do. But even busy people, especially moms, deserve a few minutes off from their hectic schedule.
1. Get Outside for 10 Minutes
The first of these ways to lower stress with plants is right outside your door. You might have snow on the ground where you live but it’s still worth sharing a brief moment with nature. Sometimes when I let the dog out, I take a minute to inhale the fresh smell of wet soil. I see the bright cloudy sky. I feel the cool rain on my face. So if you need to let your dog outside, take a few minutes, to hang around. Better yet, go for a walk in your local park. Do the trees have any leaves yet? Are the branches waving in the wind? How do the clouds move? Are they hanging or breaking up for bits of blue sky? Remember to breathe it all in. Even 10 minutes in an open natural space will refresh you.
2. Bring Home Eucalyptus Stems
Eucalyptus smells so spicy and fresh. You can probably imagine the scent right now. Supermarkets commonly sell the branches in their floral department. They range from five to ten dollars, depending on the size of the bundle. But the best thing about choosing eucalyptus over other flowers or leaves is they last. For weeks and weeks. So if you can, splurge a bit and put them in a vase of water. Then, whenever you pass by the table, rub your fingers on the leaves and smell that lovely scent. (And if you’re allergic, of course eucalyptus isn’t the best choice. ) Eucalyptus is known for its medicinal uses and a quick jolt of its minty scent will revive you as well.
3. Plan a Springtime Activity
Studies show that planning a vacation makes us slightly happier than when we’re actually on a vacation so dream a little about the future. What will you grow this year? Where can you go to see daffodils and tulips? How about watching a hyacinth bloom in a bulb container? Is there a botanical garden not too far away? Are there vegetable seeds you can start? Beans and peas are always easy and fun to start with kids in the house. Whatever your taste, plan a bit of fun to look forward to.
Yesterday for Daily Stress ReLeaf, I talked about a book that teaches readers how to create a sacred garden space. Jessi Bloom’s Creating Sanctuary talks about honoring yourself and how your garden can be a reflection of that. But what if you don’t have a garden or any outdoor space? Well, one way I honor myself is to display cut flowers in the house. For me, cut flowers equals a better mood. And not only does it boost my mood but it also brightens my family’s mood, if only momentarily.
A Sweet But Destructive Cat
In the past, I was unable to display cut flowers because of our cat. I loved our blue Russian mix Aleksy but he was an enemy of any cut flowers my husband bought me or I brought in from the garden. He loved to chew on the stems. Nothing made him happier than decapitating tulips in particular. It was a sad sight to wake up and see fresh flower heads laying chopped and abandoned on the dining table. So for years, I didn’t keep cut flowers around. If my husband gave me a bouquet for a special day, I locked them in my office or up high on a shelf where I rarely looked at them.
Does Science Say Cut Flowers, Better Mood?
My dear sweet cat passed away last year. Though I still miss his spirited ways, I now take advantage of my quiet still counters and table tops. When I receive roses, I proudly display them in a prominent place in the kitchen and take a moment to breathe in their scent every day. I feel grateful, especially on rainy days in winter. Apparently, a lot of other folks feel similarly. A Rutgers study found that both men and women’s moods are bettered by flowers. We’ve evolved to react positively to them.
To say I react positively puts it lightly. Cut flowers are like a blast of sunshine for me, reminding me that nature is simple and beautiful. Flowers know nothing of life’s complexities or disappointments. They just do what they do best: grow and offer their gifts. Excellent stress relief.
A Question For You
So my question to you is do cut flowers put you in a better mood? Are they an expensive indulgence for you or a must? Do you also have cats that like to chomp on them? Tell me in the comments below or on Twitter.
Jessi Bloom’s Creating Sanctuary is a beautiful guide on how to honor your land while honoring your self. It’s part garden design, part plant-based medicine, part soul-healing. She talks about creating a sacred garden space that aligns with your spiritual self before advising on how best to care for that self, physically and mentally. Though the premise sounds a little woo-woo, I found the book provides both inspiration and information in fair proportions. As she says, we all want “peacefulness, protection from a harsh world, and rejuvenation.” So having an expert like Bloom to help with that makes good sense.
Sacred Space, Sacred You
The first section deals with imagining and building your garden, addressing design elements and meaningful physical objects. She discusses the importance of listening for the land’s spirit before addressing spiritual objects like bells, altars, mandalas, etc. The book’s middle discusses the how-to of garden installation and includes a small encyclopedia of 50 sacred plants, based on medicinal uses and ancient myths. There’s an excellent chart on healing plants, their benefits, and how to use them. Plus, recipes for handy things like skin salve and natural bug repellent. Readers may find the last section a bit on the hippie side with daily rituals and mindfulness exercises but for the spiritually inclined, Bloom offers really useful ideas.
An Aspirational Dream
Like all great gardening books, there are alluring photos and crisply laid out exercises and recipes. Photos of Bloom show her doing yoga poses and harvesting plants. Her life looks of course too perfect to be true but that’s what we all want, right? The life of a relaxed, healthy gardener who lives in a quiet, eden-like setting. Overall, Creating Sanctuary is a helpful book if you want guidance on that, proving that plants really can make us happier.
You know how in summer you might notice a bee on a wildflower, collecting pollen and getting nectar? Usually the temperature’s warm and the sun’s out. The flower glows with color. You may hear a faint buzz, the song of birds. At that moment, you often feel a brief interlude of neutral relaxation. Calmness permeates the air. All is right in the world. Nature’s at work. It’s a peaceful time to cherish and a lovely slice of stress relief.
So in anticipation of this summer, I’m once again giving away wildflower seeds! Each packet contains coreopsis, coneflower, cosmos, black-eyed Susan, clover, marigolds, and more. All the flowers that bees like and keep their colonies thriving. If you’d like to get a free packet, sign up for my digest. Every month, I send a collection of interesting stuff to explore: ideas for books to read, plant news and gardening tips, music & film finds, my latest inspiration, advice on creativity, and more. Oh, and giveaways!
Speaking of which, if you’re already a subscriber and want seeds, watch for my next (March 7th) newsletter. In it, I’ll let you know the easy way to get the seeds. Until then, get your ground ready! Spring is coming and I have a feeling it’s going to be a happy growing season this year!
A couple days ago, I talked about the importance of playing with plants. As I mentioned, play researchers have found play boosts our spirits and deters sadness. So today I thought I’d offer three unique ways to play with plants. There are, of course, many ways to play with plants but I’ve noticed they mostly focus on children, as if play doesn’t apply to adults. So here are three ways to play with plants for adults. I know that kids are our pride and joys, but your well being matters too.
Plant Plants in Weird Planters
You’ve probably seen pictures of planters in old boots and such. That’s cute and what not but planting in footware kinda grosses me out. Having said that, there are so many other items you can grow plants in. (See the crazy head above.) I’ve been messing around with my own unique planters and I’ll write a future post in more detail about what I’ve been planting in. In the meantime here are a few ideas.
What about an old sewing machine with a basket inserted in the cabinet’s opening? It seems every charity store has the sewing table but not machine inside. Also, what about tomatoes in an old trunk? Goodness knows there are a ton of those that have little use nowadays. Especially the broken or curved ones. Or how about a water lily in an old crystal candy dish? The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
A Fantasy Garden for Grown Ups
When a friend of mind was a boy, he had a little castle. He dragged it outside and gathered moss, sticks, rocks, and other little plants to landscape around his castle. He played battles and tournaments, even had a dragon. It’s no wonder he became a medieval historian and a gardening nut as an adult.
So how about, instead of a fairy garden that’s for kids, why not create a fantasy garden for yourself? Like a Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings garden? You could buy or build a lego castle and create a mini landscape around it. I even know where you can get a Tormund action figure (email me.) The upshot is if you have kids, they’ll want to play too.
Salty Chips Only With Yummy Leaves
You know how kale chips are all the rage? Or were a few years ago? I’ve made them several times myself. But really, the bottom line is I don’t want to eat kale that much. Potato chips are better, right? But what about drying and eating other plants? Besides root vegetables. What about artichoke heart or brussel sprout chips? You know how they naturally flake off anyway? Also, what about zuccini or carrot chips? Or spinach or butter lettuce? Leeks? It seems to me almost any green leaf that’s not bitter might work. And most leaves are less bitter than kale.
This spring, think about how you can have fun with plants. And if you already have ideas and methods, let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear about your experiences.
Photo by Nick Fewings