Just a quick post to let you know I’ve made and put online the Leaf Your Troubles workbook! This is a 25-page companion booklet of worksheets that dovetail with the exercises in my book, Leaf Your Troubles Behind: How to Destress and Grow Happiness Through Plants.
What’s In There
It’s a pretty simple format. I included Escape to Nature journal pages focusing on the Time Log exercises and Green Personality exploration. It also features a sample Stress Bramble you can add to along with daily Green Leisure worksheets.
I round out the last section with lists of recommended plants, maybe the funnest part! I’m sharing my favorite easy shrubs for most U.S. gardens, easy-to-grow houseplants that are safe for dogs and cats, and plants that propagate simply through cutting or dividing. Plus, good plants for a rain garden!
Speaking of rain gardens, I also include extra activities on getting more greenery in your life, both indoors and out. And so I added basic instructions on installing a community rain garden. Also, a quickie recipe for mint ice cubes that go with the cocktail recipe at the back of the Leaf Your Troubles book.
How Do I Get It?
What I like most of about this format is because it’s a PDF you’ll download on your own computer, you can print multiple pages of whatever page you like. If you want to do more than one Stress Bramble, you can just print two or three copies. If you like the journal worksheets, you can print as many as you like. And you can even print and share the recommended plant lists if you want to as well.
To get your free workbook, click here. Thanks for the support. And don’t forget to rest your attention on something green today!
To buy Leaf Your Troubles Behind, click here for Amazon,
or here for Barnes and Noble,
here for Kobo,
or find it at your local bookstore.
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.
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.
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!
Have you ever worked in a boring, windowless office whose gray cubicle walls are the only thing you see all day? I certainly have. I once worked in an office where the most colorful image my eyes landed on was a phone extensions sheet tacked on a bulletin board. Pink and blue colors highlighted the various departments. That was it. It’s not uncommon in the modern world for offices to be enclosed environments without a window view of trees or greenery. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you don’t have a view of greenery in your office, you can make one with these three things.
1. Faux natural light.
If you can’t get sunlight or even daylight into your space, you can recreate it with a plant grow bulb. You don’t need an expensive set up of industry-grade lights. You can buy a $20 dollar desk lamp from a discount store and put an $8 full-spectrum bulb inside it. Or, for about $15, you can get a clip-on, full spectrum wand lamp. This will beam blue and ultraviolet light onto the plants, similar to the sun’s rays, thus keeping you and your plant in a cheery mood. The main thing to remember is to keep it about 10 inches or more above the plant. Otherwise, you risk scorching the leaves.
2. A plant or plants.
What do we see when we look outside? Well, that depends on where you live, but it’s often three levels of greenery. Usually we see the ground, some bushes, and trees. So as a stand-in for the ground, a grass-like plant like Spider Plant or Japanese Sedge works well. For the mounded look of shrubs, choose a Pothos or Peacock Plant. For the upright structure of a tree, add a Snake Plant or Rubber Tree. These all can take the lower intensity indoor light you’ll create with a lamp.
3. A frame.
This is optional. And you have a few choices here. You can buy a wall-mounted or tabletop “grow frame” online, which will have a full-spectrum light built into the upper board and shine on the plants. This is nice as it’s naturally self-contained, but it’s crazy expensive. Or you can build one out of wood and a pre-made picture frame. This is less expensive but requires a bit of know-how. Lastly, you can buy an IKEA Besta frame and leave off the back panel, then arrange your plants inside with the grow light shining on the plants from behind. This might be the easiest option.
Your Look and Style
The look and feel of your green view is only limited by your imagination. You can create a desert-like landscape with succulents and gravel topped pots. Or more of a rainforest look with big-leafed plants. You can try a Northwest forest with moss, sword ferns, and Norfolk Island Pine. All of these looks are a bit trickier as they require higher and lower degrees of light, humidity, and water, which you’ll have to research and apply to your space.
If you feel excited about a particular kind of green view, don’t be afraid to go for it. Experiment. We all make mistakes. That’s how we learn. Just remember to make sure all of your materials and plants are to scale with one another. You don’t want to buy a tall Snake Plant in a five-gallon pot before realizing it won’t fit in your 20” grow frame. And you don’t want a low-light, water-loving Alocasia paired with a sun-loving, low-water Aloe. If you’re a beginner and you’d like a simple arrangement where the plants match in their conditions and are easy-to-grow, go with my plant recommendations in Number 2 above. Remember, the time and money you put into this will give you ten times the reward in relaxation and stress releaf. So have fun!
Last winter, I often felt scattered and anxious before starting my day, overwhelmed by all there was to do. I needed a way to center myself for the tasks ahead. While I’ve occasionally meditated in the afternoons to reconnect with my creative self, I tended to overlook it in the morning. So I promised myself I’d set aside fifteen minutes a day to meditate. Just fifteen minutes with closed eyes, breathing. Through this technique, I found my mind calmed nicely down and I sorted out my main priorities. I was able to organize my day and felt more grounded heading into it.
A Gorgeous Garden to Focus on
Nowadays when I feel particularly scattered, I don’t close my eyes but rather focus my attention on a favorite scene from nature. Because scientists tell us that gazing at flowers and plants calms our nervous system, I thought I’d give this a try. So I started sitting in front of a favorite poster. I found it years ago at a craft store. I love this poster so much that when the original had faded, I bought a new one online.
It’s a photo of a little black cat in the aisle of a lush garden. The little guy or gal simply sits there, dwarfed by the colorful perennials and lone tree at the path’s end. He or she seems content with the day. Its tiny dark body mirrors the dark tree trunk before it. This moment, this snippet of grace, somehow allows me to believe that everything in my life will be okay. It’s a miniature escape from the real world, and gosh, with all the sadness of the real world, do I need it.
The photo is by Greg Gawlowski, who I unfortunately don’t know much about. His website seems to be offline. Here’s his instagram (I think) in case you’re interested in exploring his work. I wish I knew where he’d taken this photo, whose garden it was and where that little kitty lived. Regardless, it’s given me a huge gift: not just immense pleasure, but a regular dose of much needed relaxation and health.
Do you have a favorite green scene you like to rest your attention on? Let me know!