I won’t lie; I bought my first plants for purely decorative purposes. I wasn’t trying to “find zen” or to “reconnect with nature.” I moved to a new apartment in a new city in the middle of the pandemic and needed things to fill the space. After I bought my first plant, I felt the benefits almost immediately, and went to the local nursery to get another one. And another one. At the time I’m writing this article, I have seven plants scattered around my apartment. During this crazy, unprecedented year, they’re what helped me find a sense of calm and sanity. Here are the major lessons my plants taught me.
If you’re like me and have killed a plant or two, you know that they require attention. Some plants require multiple waterings a week, while another can go weeks without a drop of water. Some crave sunlight, while others are happy even in the shade. I had to get to know each of my plants’ preferences so they could stay happy. Taking care of my plants reminded me that it’s ok for me to focus on myself too. Being in self-isolation made me get into a rut, and there were days where I forgot to go outside or didn’t hydrate enough. Giving my plants the water and light they needed served as a gentle reminder to get outside, eat well, and make sure I keep growing and thriving like them.
Pause and Breathe
I keep a peace lily on my work desk, right next to my monitor. When I started to feel stressed about an email from a client or an impending due date, I found myself turning to the peace lily and just observing it. I would notice that its leaves look fuller than the day before, or a new growth appearing. Having plants around the home can serve as an occasional reminder to pause and simply observe their beauty and symmetry.
It’s Not All About You
Ok, I don’t mean to sound harsh here. But with our lives completely disrupted by the pandemic with little assurance of what’s coming next, it can be easy to fall into a cycle of self-centered worry. Caring for my plants helped to remind me that it’s not all about me, that there are other lives out there that need care and support.
It’s OK to Ask for Help
If my plants aren’t happy, they let me know. They get droopy, grow brown tips, and drop leaves. These cries for help are what alert me that I need to change something, whether it’s their watering schedule, light level, or a bigger pot. One of the silver linings from this pandemic is the collective understanding that sometimes, it’s ok to not be ok. But instead of bottling it up, it’s also ok to reach out for help. Just like plants, you can only thrive if you’re in the right state.
Do you have any plants, and have they helped your mental well-being in the past year?
Image courtesy of Cassidy Phillips.