• Plants & Happiness,  Writing

    How Journaling in Nature Creates a Happy Magic

    Bellevue Botanical Garden Waterfall, How Journaling in Nature Creates a Happy Magic, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2022/07/05/journaling-nature/(opens in a new tab), #journaling #nature, #plants, #stressrelief, #happiness, #mentalhealth, #healingbenefits #benefits

    I’m a big advocate of journaling. Writing out one’s thoughts and feelings has enormous health benefits and helps us work out the problems of our lives. Psychologists say it helps reduce stress, boosts our mood, keeps our memory sharp, and even helps our immune system. So what’s even more interesting is how journaling in nature seems to be more powerful. Here’s why.

    It puts you in a special, out-of-time place

    Even if I journal in my backyard, I’ve taken myself out of the usual, day-to-day equation of work and my to-do lists. In nature, there are no to-do lists because nature simply exists to be what it is. So I find when I’m immersed in nature, I start to simply exist to be what I am too. I feel freer to allow my thoughts to wander and land on whatever topics they’re drawn to.

    It heightens your observational skills

    When we’re outside, we encounter a whole landscape of random sounds, sights, smells, and all else. It’s not the controlled atmosphere of an indoor environment where we’ve set the temperature and lighting. When we go into nature, we’re subjecting our bodies to a whole suite of stimuli to process. That stimuli heightens our awareness, which heightens our ability to observe and record our surroundings.

    It increases mindfulness

    Because our senses our heightened and our awareness is more alert, our ability to be mindful of our experience increases. We can smell that pine tree, see how softly the leaves wave in the breeze, hear a bird tweeting, touch the roughness of a rock, and so on. And so, because we’re more in the “here and now,” our attention begins to block out thoughts of the past or future. Our thoughts and feelings simplify, which helps us cope with whatever’s troubling us.

    It lowers stress

    And so, because our attention is more present and more focused on our immediate surroundings, we relax more quickly. We turn still and silent. There are no advertisements wanting something from us, no social media to make us feel anger or angst, no traffic getting in our way. The random wild thoughts zinging through our head weaken and a deeper sense of restfulness blossoms. That, in turn, reduces our heart rate and lowers our blood pressure, creating a soothing feeling of peace.

    It creates more curiosity

    If you’re journaling indoors, you may be in your home or a local cafe. This means you know your surroundings well. But when journaling in nature, you may notice a woodland flower you’ve never noticed before, or wonder about the lake you’re sitting beside. These features of nature may create questions. What is that flower? How deep is that lake? And the more curious you become, the more you’ll learn, thus feeding your mind and creating a tiny sense of accomplishment that boosts confidence.

    Conclusion

    I’ve found journaling in nature relaxes me much more than when I journal in my home. Even if I’m working out angsty problems that relate to my day-to-day work and life, I’m less sucked in emotionally by it. I gain a useful, detached perspective that serves me well when I go back in. Plus, whatever insights or conclusions I’ve gained feel like icing on the cake. And that in turn, makes me feel more grateful for the life I have.

    Do you ever journal in nature? If you do, let me know how! I’m always looking for ideas.


  • Inspiration

    The Most Effective Way to Keep a Gratitude Journal

    Houseplant Jungle Journal, The Most Effective Way to Keep a Gratitude Journal, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/02/07/effective-gratitude-journal/ #gratitude #journal #inspiration #howtokeepagratitudejournal #RossGay
    Houseplant Jungle Journal, The Most Effective Way to Keep a Gratitude Journal, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/02/07/effective-gratitude-journal/ #gratitude #journal #inspiration #howtokeepagratitudejournal #RossGay

    Now that I’ve started a gratitude journal, I’ve been worried that its effects may wear off after a while. If I repeat myself regularly, I may lose the quality of happiness I’ll feel when counting my blessings. I mean, how many times can you feel grateful for a spouse, child, pet, etc?

    The Various Approaches

    So I did a little research. A super helpful article in Greater Good Magazine talks about the various techniques for getting the most bang for your blessings buck. They advise to go deep in your entries, elaborating on your grateful experiences with a lot of details. This makes sense as the more you imagine and relive the situation you’re grateful for, the better you’ll feel. Also, they advise focusing on people, what your life would be like without the thing you’re grateful for, and recording surprising events.

    The Various Benefits

    I also discovered that the scientific studies conducted by psychologist Robert A. Emmons showed people getting a plethora of psychological benefits. These included more restful sleep, lower blood pressure, higher alertness, and more willingness to connect with others. Other benefits surfaced as well. All provable and data driven. If you’d like to read an easy overview of the science, check out this article from the University of California at Davis.

    The One Most Effective Thing You Can Do

    Also, in my research I learned that the most important thing you can do to create an effective gratitude journal was not what I’d guessed. It’s much simpler and obvious. And that is to only journal once or twice a week. Studies show that those who wrote in the journal three times or more a week, lost the psychological benefits. The mind adjusted to the positive events too quickly and they lost their positive impact. Subjects became numb to the happiness. Interesting, huh.

    I was actually happy to read this because in truth I’m kind of lax with journals and don’t trust myself to log in what I’m grateful for every day anyway. Hee.

    So if you’re like I am and want an excuse to journal every week rather than every day, gratitude journaling may be the path for you too.

    An Inspirational Book

    During this process, I’ve been thinking of the poet Ross Gay. His book, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, sings with beautiful verse about all that is difficult and painful and unjust and yet worthwhile in this wild thing we call life. I highly recommend it for inspiration!


    Karen Hugg, Author and Gardener, www.karenhugg.com, #books #author #Seattle #plants #gardening #crimefiction #Paris #vines #vineofideas #newsletter

    If you’d like to get more articles like this, join my email group! Every month I send out a digest of interesting ideas about inspiration, books, music, plants, travel, momhood, and more! It’s A Vine of Ideas.

  • Inspiration

    Why I’m Starting a Gratitude Journal

    Plant Journal, Why I'm Starting a Gratitude Journal, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/02/07/gratitude-journal/ #gratitude #journal #writing #inspiration #happiness

    As we get into the new year, I’ve decided to start a gratitude journal. I’m not sure why, I just had an impulse. But I think the impulse comes from where I was at the end of last year. In late fall, the press I published The Forgetting Flower through, went on indefinite hiatus due to the publisher’s medical issues. That hurt. Then, a close loved one was in financial trouble, also hard. But I think worst, my dog died. You know how people say, “What’s the matter? You look like your dog just died.” Yeah, well, that was me.

    A New Year Brings New Beginnings

    Still, despite all that, I knew I still had a good life. I had a supportive husband, three great kids, and three sweet animals. I had a house and a garden and enough money. Once, I started mentally listing what I did have, I felt better.

    Buddhist philosophers believe that to focus on what you have rather than what you don’t have creates happiness. When you focus on what you want, you will suffer. It’s such a simple concept and yet so true. Modern psychological tests back this up. People who focus on what they’re grateful for are happier than those who don’t. I realized I was grateful for what I had but needed to keep better track of those blessings. Like in writing. So I wouldn’t take them for granted.

    Artifacts That Spark Joy

    I procrastinated getting the journal because I wasn’t sure if I should use my old Ideas & Journal notebook for this or a fresh notebook. And what kind? A composition book? A beautifully bound journal? Something recyclable? Before I knew it, I was paralyzed by the indecision that came with finding the silly notebook that I needed to start. So I left the task alone.

    Then, the other day, I went to my local garden nursery. While shopping for a pot for a houseplant, I noticed a basket on display. It had several small journals inside, all decorated on the outside with plants. One even had the leaves of tropical plants and they’re accompanying botanical names. The cover was beautiful. And without a plastic or glossy cover, it was recyclable. Boom! Done!

    I’d found the pure inspiration I’d needed at a plant nursery. Of course, I did. It was almost too predictable. But in the end, a regular notebook would have worked. Even a bunch of paper stapled together. The physical object doesn’t really matter that much, does it?

    How to Create a Gratitude Journal

    As my first entry I wrote that I was grateful for garden nurseries and botanical journals that had drawings of plant leaves with accompanying Latin names. My second was the thanks I felt for my family. The third was for having a good place to live. But from then on, where did I go? I didn’t want to just repeat the same things over and over again.

    I wanted to go deeper, get more detailed. Get in touch with what was happening in my life. So I looked around the interwebs and found this great article from Shutterfly. It has an outstanding list of prompts to get your thoughts flowing. Like: Pick a random photo and write about why you’re grateful for that memory. Or: List three people who helped you through a tough situation.

    I like the idea of mining my memories and experiences for detailed imaginative material

    Getting Acquainted With Gratitude

    Keeping this journal is still new to my life. I’m not really a self-help type. However, I’ve found articulating what is so good about my life makes me instantly and extremely happy. Despite our political situation in the U.S., I still have a lot to be grateful for. And that gratitude super-charges my soul so that I can be available and present to others. That may be the best gift out of this whole endeavor.


    Karen Hugg, Author and Gardener, www.karenhugg.com, #books #author #Seattle #plants #gardening #crimefiction #Paris #vines #vineofideas #newsletter

    Join the hundreds of other subscribers who get ideas for cool books, film, music, plants, Paris, and inspiration. It’s A Vine of Ideas. Thanks!

  • Inspiration

    4 Reasons Why I Love My Journal

    Journal with a William Morris print with plants and flowers on cover

    4 Reasons Why I Love My Journal, Karen Hugg, #journal #writing #creativity #showyourwork
    My William Morris Celandine Journal

    I’ve always thought keeping a journal meant writing long passages of insight about your life and its meaning, a diary a la Anais Nin or The Artist’s Way that someday after you die would reveal who you secretly were. I’ve tried to do this in the past but it never stuck. But after reading Show Your Work, I’ve realized that keeping a journal is the opposite. It can be disjointed, messy, inspired, and mundane. It’s a reflection of the nonlinear mind, of the creative journey.  Like a painting of thoughts, ideas, notes, and even drawings, its bits and pieces coalesce to form its beauty.