• Books,  Plants & Happiness

    How a Box of Books on my Doorstep Delighted Me

    Leaf Your Troubles Books, How a Box of Books on my Doorstep Delighted Me, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2022/06/29/box-of-leaf-your-troubles #plants #books #leafyourtroubles #nonfiction #mentalhealth #happiness #stressrelief #destressing #relaxation

    Hi all,

    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!

    Karen Hugg, sig, http://www.karenhugg.com #author #books #fiction #Paris #journal

  • Plants & Happiness

    A Little Playtime with a Houseplant Brings Big Rewards

    Houseplants, A Little Playtime with a Houseplant Brings Big Rewards, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2021/11/16/playtime-with-a-houseplant, #houseplants, #plants, #happiness, #stress, #destressing, #stressrelief, #mentalhealth, #play

    If you’re struggling through a stressful workweek, you may feel like you have no time to lower your stress. You’re juggling multiple tasks while your attention springs from one event to another. This is typical as we try to get through the avalanche of work that piles up. By Friday, we’re burnt out and ready for a change. But deciding what that change is can be tricky. Yes, you can plop in front of a screen with a show or video game, but that may only increase our stress. Yes, there’s shopping at the mall but shopping costs money. This is why I always fall back on an old reliable standby to destress from work: playing with my houseplants.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. When I say “playing” with my houseplants, what I mean is fiddling with them. I arrange their pots on shelves and stands for a new look. I clean up their dead leaves and water their soil. Lastly, I transplant whatever looks pot bound. The plants reward me with not only a fresh look for my room, but a simple, relaxing endeavor.

    The relaxation part is a subconscious event. It’s not anything I consciously think about as I’m doing it. But I gradually feel a sense of “coming down” from the hectic pace of my workweek. I slow my behavior toward a task that doesn’t have a big end goal. There aren’t a million things to do with houseplant care. It’s actually really simple. And that’s the playing part. Play has low goals, isn’t complex, and happens at a comfortable pace.

    Science Says Fifteen Minutes Is Enough

    What’s interesting is my little visit with a houseplant here and there reaps big rewards. Researcher Yoshifumi Miyazaki helps us see why. He conducted a small study with young men in their twenties who transplanted plants during a break from stressful, computer-oriented work. The subjects worked for 15 minutes with a Vining Pepper Plant (peperomia dahlstedtii) over the course of three days. Their sympathetic nervous systems and blood pressure were monitored. He also measured these systems while the subjects worked at a computer task.

    You can guess the results. During the plant-related task, the sympathetic nervous system activity was about four points lower than the computer-related task. Blood pressure lowered by six points. By contrast, sympathetic nervous system activity and blood pressure were both higher during computer-related engagement. Subjects reported feeling much more comfortable, soothed, and natural when working with the plants. They felt much less comfortable, soothed, and natural when working on the computer. It’s not too surprising. But this study scientifically proves the value of playing with houseplants, even for a brief time and with little experience.

    Which Plant to Play With?

    This weekend, see if you can make time to fiddle with a houseplant. Saturday morning always work for me. And the ritual doesn’t have to be long. It seems 15 minutes will do. And if you don’t have a houseplant, this study offers a good reason to buy one. You can spend as little as fifteen dollars, if you’re willing to start with a small plant in a four-inch pot. A pothos or snake plant are good choices. Set near a north or east-facing window and water every seven to ten days. On the weekends, take your time checking on it. Trim its brown leaves off, dust it with a damp cloth, turn it so another side faces the light. You may enjoy this soothing little activity so much that you’ll want to grow another and another and another until you create your own special plant playground.


  • Plants & Happiness

    The Four Surprising Physical Benefits of House Plants

    Peace Lily in Bloom, The Four Surprising Physical Benefits of House Plants, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2021/12/14/physical-benefits-houseplants/(opens in a new tab), #peacelily, #houseplants, #benefits, #cleanair, #mentalhealth, #stressrelief, #stress, #happiness, #indoor, #plants

    It’s January and we’re spending lots of time indoors. That means artificial heat, little daylight, and more inhalation of polluted air that contains volatile organic compounds. The first two conditions lead to drier skin and lowered immunity against diseases like colds and the flu. The third, inhalation of VOCs, can lead to respiratory issues, headaches, dizziness, hormone disruption, and even organ damage and cancer.

    VOCs are nasty. They’re the toxic fumes and dust emitted via gases from furniture, carpets, paint, and plastics. We can’t see or smell them. They’re barely detectable. But we breathe them in every day. They, along with dry heat and darkness, can potentially harm our bodies at this time of year.

    When we’re not physically healthy, we feel less energetic to take on the world. We’re not as alert, we’re tired, and sicker than we are in summer. This in turn causes us to miss out on things we otherwise enjoy. But the good news is common house plants can help neutralize the harmful effects of living indoors.

    How Houseplants Can Help You

    According to various scientific studies, there are four main physical benefits of growing plants indoors. In some cases, you don’t need a lot of money or effort to gain those benefits either. Here they are.

    1. It only takes a few plants to clean the air. There’s a famous NASA study that proved plants clean the air of toxic fumes like formaldehyde and carbon monoxide. This study’s been cited a lot by various articles but because it was conducted in small, controlled chambers, it’s also been somewhat criticized. However, follow up studies have solidified the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s results. They show that plants reduce harmful gases in the air. In some cases, only six shelf-sized plants were needed to reduce volatile organic compounds by as much as 75%. Wow!

    2. Humidity rises easily through plants. Most folks don’t realize that our indoor air is way too dry. We often live in heated homes where the humidity is below the 30–60% needed for our bodies to be healthy. When humidity is too low, we suffer from more frequent colds and dry itchy skin. Washington State researchers found that plants using less than 2% of a room’s space can raise humidity by 5%. This study also mentioned how too much humidity is rare because when the air is humid, a plant slows its evaporation. So if you grow several plants together, your air should feel more comfortable.

    Two More I Didn’t Know About

    3. Plants reduce dust accumulation. This one surprised me. Researchers found adding plants around the edges of a room reduced particulate matter on horizontal surfaces by as much as 20%, even in the center of the room. This is weird because you’d think that plants create more dust and particulates from dirt but the opposite is the case. The only clue as to how this happens is the researchers’ conjecture that particulate matter is reduced by “impacting and adhering to plant surfaces.” In the meantime, you could conduct your own experiment by growing several houseplants and see if they help keep your home clean.

    4. Plants lower noise under certain conditions. A 2003 study found that plants can absorb or break up sound, depending on the frequency. Rough bark and thicker, wider leaves are particularly effective at absorption. Plants with dense foliage are better too. And of course, the larger number of plants, the more sound is neutralized. Also, placement has an effect as well. But researchers learned that plants, like carpet or furniture, neutralize sound waves and reduce noise.

    If Nothing Else, Try This One Simple Thing

    In the meantime, to improve your health, you can try one simple thing today. And you only need to do it for five minutes. Take a walk outside. Inhale the fresh air, feel the cool moisture on your face. It may be a bit noisy and maybe even a bit dusty, but scientists say outdoor air is oftentimes healthier than indoor air. If it’s convenient, you can head for your nearest public park to take in the healing sight and smells of greenery. A short walk will not only get you into the daylight and circulate your blood, it’ll boost your mood and get you in touch with the joys of autumn.


  • Books,  Plants & Happiness

    Leaf Your Troubles Behind Just Got an Amazing Cover!

    Leaf Your Troubles Behind Cover

    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 Artwork

    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,

    Karen Hugg, sig, http://www.karenhugg.com #author #books #fiction #Paris #journal
  • Plants & Happiness

    How the Fresh Scent of the Forest Can Fight Cancer in Amazing Ways

    Forest Path, How the Fresh Scent of the Forest Can Fight Cancer in Amazing Ways, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2021/12/08/forest scent cancer, #plants, #happiness, #mentalhealth, #stressrelief, #stress, #leafyourtroublesbehind, #greenleisure, #relaxation, #cancer

    If you’re anything like me, you get stressed out because of work — or your kids or parents or even an unexpected traffic jam or small injury. Stress is an ongoing issue in our modern world.

    Sometimes when we’re stressed getting outside and taking a walk can help. Our mind takes a break from whatever is causing our angst and our bodies take in outside air, which helps us relax. But did you know there’s an added benefit to taking a walk specifically in the woods?

    It’s not that it’s a more serene, prettier experience, though there’s that too.

    The added benefit of walking in the woods is the scent that trees make. And I’m not talking about the generally refreshing smell of the leaves or wind or soil, though that’s a part of it. I’m talking about phytoncides.

    Phytoncides are the essential oils trees create to ward off pests and harmful bacteria. They are limonenes, turpines, carene, pinene, and others. If you’ve ever walked through a grove of cedars, you’ve smelled them. It’s oftentimes a spicy cool scent but not always. For instance, garlic gives off phytoncides as well, that strong familiar fragrance that wafts up when you smash a clove. Whatever the phytoncide, researchers have discovered that when humans inhale them, they boost the immune system.

    Two Ground Breaking Studies

    Dr. Qing Li, who I mentioned in my post about the most reputable researchers in plants and mental health, has led the research on walking in the woods or “forest bathing.” He conducted experiments where Japanese businessmen between the ages of 37 and 55 walked for two hours in the mornings and afternoons on forest paths.

    Dr. Li and his team sampled their blood and found that their T cells, which are the Natural Killer cells our bodies make to fight off cancer, jumped in activity. In fact, they increased about 50 percent compared to their baseline measurements. Wow!

    Another fun fact: the effects lasted a full seven days after the trip to the forest.

    Because he wanted to learn whether a person had to physically be present in the forest, Dr. Li and his team conducted another experiment where they asked twelve men between the ages of 37 and 60 to sleep in a hotel for three nights.

    With a vaporizer, the team released the scent of Hinoki Cypress tree oil (Chamaecyparis obtusa) during the night. After taking the subjects’ blood, they found a 20 percent increase in NK cells! Subjects also reported feeling more rested and less fatigued.

    Dr. Li has gone on to study other aspects of this phenomenon. He’s found walking in the forest not only increased NK cells but also reduced blood pressure and heart rate.

    His and other researchers’ studies have shown an increased activity of the parasympathetic nerve system, the part of the nervous system that helps us relax.

    Related to that, studies show forest bathing reduces cortisol, our stress hormone. And finally, forest bathing reduces anxiety, depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion.

    So if you’re feeling stressed this week, consider visiting a large public park or wooded preserve on the weekend. Walking for an hour or two among trees will physically as well as psychologically remove you from your daily problems.

    Plus, it will heal more than just your mood, it’ll increase your body’s ability to fight off one of our most dangerous diseases. Think of it as free medicine only nature can prescribe.