In my article about why plants make us happier, I talked about how we’re innately connected to them through our evolutionary history as well as physiological make up. But though our minds and bodies work in concert with plants, we often forget about how powerful they are in lowering our stress. We get busy indoors with stuff we have to do! So if we remind ourselves to engage with the green world on a daily basis, we’ll gain the benefits of calming our nervous system, restoring our attention, and literally strengthening our bodies. And research shows that only a few minutes of greenery is oftentimes all we need to lower stress.
But we all work and do errands and raise kids and all else. Who has the time, right? Well, here are some quick, little ways to lower stress through plants.
- Take a ten minute walk and count the trees on the street as you go. This will force your eyes to focus on their healing fractal patterns.
- Eat lunch on a bench by plants. Instead of eating at your desk or take-out restaurant, find a park or courtyard where your eyes rest on plants.
- Keep a plant on your desk at the office. Some plants can survive with only fluorescent lighting. Here are 5 easy house plants to grow.
- Set the screensaver on your computer to a forest. Whenever you return to your desk, you’ll see a few moments of a restful sanctuary.
- Look up and notice how the trees soften the sky as you walk from your car, the bus, or subway to your house. Take a deep breath at the sight.
- Grow a plant on the windowsill above your sink. Whenever you wash the dishes, you’ll spend a few minutes zoning out on pretty green leaves.
- Hang a photo or drawing of a scene with plants. If your taste is antique, use a classic bouquet painting, if your taste is modern, try a leaf portrait.
- Put a house plant on your nightstand (that is, if a window’s nearby). This way, the first thing you’ll see in the morning is calming leaves.
- Decorate your table with a cut greenery centerpiece. While you’re eating meals, your eyes will feast on the various green shapes and hues.
- Gently wipe a house plant’s leaves with a wet cloth. Five minutes of petting a green friend will lower your heart rate and tidy up your room.
So this week, if you can, take a little greenery break, whether inside our outside. Schedule it into your lunch hour or afternoon snack time. See it as a window of renewal your mind and body both need, like exercise or sleep. Afterward, you’ll feel refreshed and a bit more ready to take on the stress of the day.
This week, try taking a greenery break for five days and let me know if you were able to make it a habit! In the next post, I’ll share what I do during mine.
Yesterday, in writing about why playing with plants makes us happy, I came across this lovely fractal pattern leaf. So for today’s Daily Stress ReLeaf, I thought I’d do a short post and share it. You may have learned from a previous post about why gazing at these fractal images is so healing for souls. To refresh your memory, their natural patterns fit with the way our eyes naturally scan images, making for a congruent experience that relaxes us. After all of these years as a gardener, it’s still hard for me to understand how a leaf can make itself this way. It’s so spectacular and complex and yet so usual.
The Power of a Close Up
I wanted to write about the image’s photographer but it came from FreePhotosArt on Pixabay. There’s not much information about the person but they seem to be Russian or in that part of the world. In addition to the fractal pattern leaf, they’ve put up photos of forests, fields, train tracks, and other dreamy images of nature. If you need photos for a blog or website, or just want to explore, check out this talented person’s work.
I hope you have a few minutes today to take in this image’s loveliness. It will help lower your heart rate and calm you.
Have a great day!
So yesterday I talked about looking at plant photos as a way to relax. Today, I’m going to offer an easy way to relax with trees. First, we need to refer back to the benefits of looking at fractal patterns, which I explored the other day. These are the patterns that our eyes are naturally in sync with, where a simple design repeats itself over and over to form a complex whole. That complex whole can exist in several ways in nature. One of the most common is in tree branch formations.
The Beauty of a Leafless Tree?
In the Northwest, we’re blessed with conifers that hang onto their needles all year. But in much of the U.S. winter brings leafless trees, turning our horizons brown and making things feel a bit depressing. But in those leafless tree skeletons, nature has created an elegant network of a main thick trunk dividing into thinner trunks that divide into thinner branches and thinner branches until the tips gracefully end in a motif of little points. That elegant design is the beauty of nature’s work.
Ever notice a poorly pruned or topped tree that grows in a strange abrupt tangle of trunks and branches? How do you feel when you see it? Maybe a bit sad. Or if it’s Halloween, like it captures a dark mood. The perfection of a naturally grown tree actually pleases us (despite a lack of leaves in winter). We know it’s form to be “right” or “whole” because the fractal pattern fits with the natural way it needs to grow.
Relaxing Within the Elegance
Every day, my husband and I take a walk after lunch. It’s only about a twenty-minute walk up the gentle hill of our street and back. But because we live in a forested suburb, we’re immersed in a cathedral of fir, cedar, and pine trees. We usually chat about what we’re up to that day or our kids or the latest news, but as we do we’re unconsciously taking in the fractal patterns of our trees. They rise before us as we walk, both presenting themselves close to us and on our view’s horizon.
A Double Benefit
Because we’re taking a walk “in the woods,” we’re getting a double benefit: we’re looking at fractal patterns and we’re mildly exercising. Of course, I don’t need to go over the benefits of walking, but I do want to emphasize how refreshed and vibrant I feel afterward. My mind is clear, my body’s warm, my ability to tend to complex issues restored.
The bottom line is if you can go for a walk among trees, even down a busy city street with leafless trees, you’ll engage in a relaxation break exercise on steroids. You’ll gain the relaxation benefit of the branches’ fractal patterns and you’ll give your body the exercise it needs to renew your system.
It turns out taking a walk down a leafy street isn’t just a nice break from the work day but also a scientifically proven way to relax with trees and lower your stress. How awesome is that?!
Photo by Craig Vodnick
Yesterday, I talked about fractal patterns and how they can reduce stress. Today, I want to share a few of those relaxing plant images. We know from research that constantly switching our attention back and forth, which we usually do during stressful times, creates mental exhaustion. So if you can allow yourself to sit and gaze at a fractal pattern, you’ll refuel your brain’s tank.
The hardest part is switching your attention away from the worrisome task at hand. And the more stressed you are, the harder it is. I know that feeling firsthand. You feel anxious at the mere idea of taking a few minutes off. But I urge you to let the anxiety go. This time is for you.
Whenever I take a few minutes out to look at plant fractals, I don’t regret it. Sometimes it’s only for 20 seconds. But that still helps. It’s like pushing a reset button for me. I feel calmer and focused and like my feet are actually on the earth. Then I jump into the fray, feeling renewed.
My Favorite Fractals
I really love these three relaxing images. To get the best results, try to deeply breathe for three minutes while gazing at each image. Let your eyes wander as they like. Check out the details. You might find surprises.
The above leaf pattern was brought to us by David Clode. He’s a nature photographer based in Australia. Notice how the veination continues to subdivide and and subdivide into smaller tributaries. That those little vascular tubes keep a plant alive is astonishing to me. Nature is so cool!
I love love love this photo. It captures the majesty of a tree so well. The branches gradually thin and thin before giving way to tiny green leaves. I couldn’t locate a tree name on the photo but the craggy bark points to a walnut. The photo’s by Dutch photographer Lucas van Oort.
These fern fiddleheads show the concept of the infinite spiral. The new leaves emerge curled up inside themselves, protected from the elements. Then the stems straighten and big beautiful leaves open to take in the light. I can’t believe people eat fiddleheads. They’re so delicate and lovely. Year after year, they give me a thrill. The photo is by Pitsch.
If you have favorite relaxing plant images, share with me in the comments below.