Just a quick post to let you know my video interview on the “Let’s Get Growing” YouTube show is now available. I talked with gardener extraordinaire Enoch Graham about plants and wellness. The plants and wellness found, of course, in Leaf Your Troubles Behind. We touched on some impressive statistics about how engaging with plants lowers your stress. We also talked about easy activities you can do to get greenery in your life, and the positive psychological benefits of gardening. Plus, favorite plants!
Overall, the interview went great. I always feel self-conscious on video but hey, it is what it is. Goofy smile and all. My ring light burnt out during the last few minutes, so if you see me go a little dark, that’s why. Ah, technology.
Anyway, if you have 20 minutes, you might want to take a peek. I did the interview from my latest green sanctuary nook. It’s a very simple comfy chair, fairy lights, and houseplants arranged in the corner of my living room. A happy place. By the way, if you’d like help setting up your own green sanctuary nook or room, just give me a shout through my Contact page. I’m at your service.
In the meantime, here’s the show. Enjoy!
It’s no secret spending time with nature can lower stress and lead to a happier life. But sometimes people don’t know where to start. They feel overwhelmed by all the choices and unsure what to do. What’s more, a lot of folks have hardly spent time with nature. Maybe this is you. If so, there’s good news. You can discover your green personality regardless. All it takes is a little self-exploration.
Exploring Your History With Nature
Let’s start with my Green Personality exercise from Leaf Your Troubles Behind. The first step is to get a piece of lined paper and a pen. Then answer this question: what is your first memory related to plants or a natural landscape? How old were you? Where were you? Now write for as long as you can about that experience. If another more powerful experience pops in your head, follow that image and write in detail about it. Try to remember who you were with, the time of day, the sounds and smells around you. Make it vivid.
If this doesn’t jog your memory, try this: make a list of your favorite people from your childhood. Did you ever enjoy a nature-related activity with that person? If so, what was it? And why did you like it?
If there are no joyful memories, is there a sad one? What did it feel like? Describe that in as much detail as you can. Then, when you’ve got it all down on paper, start a new paragraph. How can you reclaim that experience and turn it into a good one? What can you do differently? You have the power to change your life for the better.
Maybe you’re still in need of ideas, so here’s another prompt: if money and time weren’t an issue, what natural experience would you like to do? Would you hike in Hawaii? Camp in a forest? Grow exotic houseplants? Or just have a beautiful little garden in which to sit? You’re only bound by your imagination.
Making Sense of the Memories
Now, from all that you’ve written, circle the words describing positive feelings. Like “enjoyed” or “peaceful” or “fun” or “accepted,” etc. Then circle the activities that appeal to you. Maybe it’s kayaking on a placid lake. It could be riding a bike down a country road. Maybe it’s shopping at a plant nursery or puttering among tomato plants.
Next, put those feelings and activities together and see if you can create a mission statement. Like I want to [nature activity] so I can feel [positive emotions]. This is what will guide you going forward.
This may seem like a lot of work but discovering your green personality is key. You need to know how you’d like to spend time in nature in a way that’s right for you! And once you have your mission statement, you’ll never be confused. You’ll have a north star to guide you on your journey toward stress relief and a green wellness practice.
If you want more information on that practice, you can buy Leaf Your Troubles Behind, or watch my upcoming webinar, available in April, 2023.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you need a way to sort out all the stuff on your to-do list. A long list is useful but what’s really the priority? I’ve noticed if you keep a log for three days, you’ll figure out priorities super quickly. It shows you what you really think is important.
Recently, I did my Sifting Your Time Soil activity from Leaf Your Troubles Behind again. I designed it so readers could sort out the stuff that overwhelmed them and manage it all better. I nicked the strategy from business consultant David Allen and modified it for busy women and moms. It’s amazing what you discover.
What I Learned
First, categorizing things forces you to make tough but spirit-lifting decisions. For instance, when you decide vacuuming the car, which you may have thought of as a Must Do task, actually belongs in a Let Go slot, you feel liberated to forget about it and move on. Later, if you decide to do it, it’ll be a surprising win that will boost your spirit.
Also, when you take a hard look at the tasks before you, you realize delegating can save you. Perhaps, your spouse could pay the bills and your kids could empty the dishwasher. When our kids were in elementary school, we paid a quarter to whoever wanted to empty the dishwasher. It worked great, until they hit middle school when we had to turn that Hand Off chore into things like raking leaves, taking out garbage, and such.
The biggest thing I noticed was all the time I wasted. One small example: from about 4:30 to 5:00 on certain weekdays, I aimlessly checked social media. I took that extra half hour and slotted it into Me Time. That inspired me to use it better. I decided to get outside somehow: take a short walk with the dog, roam the garden, check the garage for things to give away, etc. Putting something light but active in those windows helped me feel more productive and in the moment.
I wish you a productive day!
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!
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.