How Having Plants Has Helped My Mental Health

#WorkForHappy

People tell me several things about adulthood, but the idea that I would look forward to coming home just to see my plants was an unforeseen adult thing. No one told me about this part. I’m… shook.

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Meet my plants! They’re my best friends ❤

Since getting plants, I’ve started to not only care for them, but for myself as well. I put so much time and effort into my plants – researching their optimal conditions, evaluating their watering needs, making sure they’re potted comfortably, giving them more or less light… in tandem I’ve started hydrating myself, getting fresh air, and even meditating, in a way, as I stroke their leaves and say affirming things to them. I feel connected to them, as well as with my environment, and (wait for it)… the universe.

Is that a hippy thing to say? Welp, I guess I’m a hippy now.

The Origin Story

The reason I got plants in the first place was because I was having a good day. I had just finished a particularly productive morning shift at work (I work in the kid’s section of Indigo Books and Music), and the day was fresh. I had seeing my mom that evening to look forward to, as I hadn’t seen her in just over a week. I also had some desk work to do, since I also freelance as a writer and editor for some businesses and blogs here and there.

Normally on such a day, I like to buy myself flowers. They smell nice, they look nice, and makes for a bright, sweet atmosphere to work in. But something else caught my eye.

A peace lily was stretching her flower so that it peeked over the succulents in a shop window. This is fitting – peace lilies are named for how their flowers peek over its long broad leaves to look like a white flag, peeking over war-torn barracks. A symbol of peace.

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Meet Robin Ellacott!

I left that store today with a peace lily and a parlor plant, unceremoniously wrapped and put into a plastic bag. I rushed home to free them, prep them, and settle them into their new home.

(I should mention that I also got a small succulent, which unfortunately passed not too long after I got it. Her name was Ella. I didn’t get to find out her genus, but she was lovely while she lasted. Ella withering away leaf by fleshy leaf made me all the more protective of the plants left in her wake. Dramatic, I know.)

So, now I live with plants. There’s my peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii) whom I call Robin Ellacott, named after one of my favourite literary characters from the Cormoran Strike series by “Robert Galbraith”, aka J.K. Rowling. The other plant is a parlor palm (Chamaedora elegans), christened Robert Green to honor the real life Oxford academic who wrote children’s stories and English biographies.

Fun Fact: Parlor Plants are named because they were particularly popular during the Victorian era (my favourite era! I’m a Romantic), since a burgeoning middle class could suddenly afford for such luxuries as indoor plants!

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Here’s Robert Green, in all his Victorian glory

They comfort me on days I feel uninspired. They ease my anxiety on days I am tempted to call in sick, because I genuinely love the feeling of coming home to see them. When I get home I like to sit and stroke their leaves, and say nice things to them. I hype them up, you know? They hype me up with their presence alone.

My peace lily has bloomed a new flower and my parlor palm has grown pretty quickly for a plant that generally takes decades to grow to even a couple feet.

I’m a Plant Mom Now and I Love It

I also now have a beautiful little prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura), whom I rescued from his cruel captives. When I found him he was stuffed unceremoniously under a table against the window, so his leaves were growing in a really weird formation. One of his leaves was actually growing upside down. I bought him for a measley two bucks. The spots on his leaves give me so much happiness. I haven’t named him yet, so if you have any suggestions, comment it down below!

Another fun fact! Prayer leaves are named because in the evening, the leaves fold together to look like hands in prayer! Very spiritual, and stunning as well.

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My newest addition to the family, who’s still nameless! Any ideas?

I can’t express how close I feel to these plants. I’m convinced that having them near me makes me feel more productive, more compassionate, and definitely more comfortable in my home surroundings. They are my kindred spirits, like friends I can always look forward to seeing after a long day at work.

I’ve also noticed a significant improvement in my mental health. I struggle with an unproductive cloud of depression, and the constant self doubt of anxiety. The burden can sometimes be unbearable as I’m trapped in a cycle of not getting anything done and hating myself for it. As a result I’ve become a bit of a workaholic, to the point that co-workers I barely know point it out. I’ve worked myself to the point of fainting, after which I was forced to go home and – instead of resting – began to draw study notes for a class the next term.

The crushing sense of defeat I feel when I don’t spend my day doing something is debilitating. This makes self-care difficult.

Sometimes I go days without showering, I will only eat greasy take out if at all, and have an irregular sleep schedule that exhausts me. A soft breeze will make me burst into tears, and I find it difficult to get myself together. Breaking down is part of my routine, now. It’s to the point that time I schedule to “chill out” is actually time for me allowing myself to cry.

Now I find myself beaming at my plant friends when I’m anxious, taking a sip of water myself when I’m done misting them. I got a humidifier. You guys. I’m an adult with a humidifier in my house. I think I’ve made it.

Taking care of plants has taught me to take better care of myself. I didn’t think plants would be so rewarding, but here I am, writing this blog post with a light heart and bright eyes.

Getting a Plant – It’s Easier and SO Much More Fun Than You Think

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He’s a little crusty, but if you look closely, he’s growing a new leaf! It’s the shoot in the very middle that looks like a stem – the leaf is rolled so tightly it’s hard as a stick! So cool.

If you want to experience the utter peace and joy that plants give, just take a look at Jenna Marbles’ video “A Tour Of My Plants”. Yes, you read that right – I’m recommending a Jenna Marbles video in a blog post about plants. Just watch some of it, you don’t have to watch the whole 28:50, but it really is a chill, fun video.

(Other really great plant YouTubers are Summer Rayne Oaks, and Harli G – they’re the og).

Jenna is so excited for her plants, so emotionally attached, so maternal and nurturing. I feel the same as she does when I get home and see them, especially when I spot a new flower bud, shoots of fresh leaves, a newly variegated leaf peaking out from under a vine.

Plus, it’s really low maintenance compared to, say, a furry pet (unless we’re talking about my peace lily, Robin, who is a major drama queen that WILL throw a fit if you don’t give her enough attention).

They also remind you to take care of yourself a little bit. They feel like a healthy escape, not one that just distracts me from my problems, but give me a great outlet to pour all those intense emotions into something healthy and productive that doesn’t disturb my health. I make the time to take care of them, which means that I am making the time to just stop and take care of something for a little bit, and pay attention to not only their needs, but my own as well. It’s like meditation without repeating phony mantras that you don’t always connect with.

(I can’t tell you how many times I have remembered to take medication or just change my three day old clothes when I’ve been taking care of my plants. Seriously, it’s uplifting but out of context… it’s kind of sad lol).

Plants give so much love with bare minimum effort.

Do yourself a favor, and get yourself a plant. There’s a plant for every household, ever schedule. There are sooo many indoor plants that barely need light or water, like Roger Green, my parlor plant. The store clerk told me I should water him every week, but from my own research I discovered that you shouldn’t actually water them until the soil is quite dry. The same goes for the peace lily. Yes, they need to be constantly moist, but I actually find that with Robin that she strives when I water her just when she looks a little droopy or if her soil is a little crusty – not just a little less moist than usual – because root rot is a lot less reversible than feeling a little parched now and then.

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The lily is looking a little too green to look like a white flag, but she’s turning white soon! My mum says coffee grounds will encourage Robin to grow even more flowers, because they need extra fertilizing. There’s a pro-tip!

It took some experimenting, but as long as you do research and make a couple mistakes, plants make for great support companions. Some genera of plant are really forgiving, and will really reward you when you do something right. Blue Ivy has been killing it so far, and my little unnamed refugee prayer plant is already correcting his posture by altering the direction of light every now and then.

Disclaimer: if the only reason you want to get a plant is for aesthetics, just get a fake one. Plants need love to survive, so they can only put up with so much negligence. There are so many really cool realistic ones, so get one of those instead of possibly putting a plant through something traumatic. They deserve homes that want to love them, just like a pet or a person! Just look at my prayer plant – he gives me so much love, because I give him all the love.

Robin, Green, and unnamed prayer plant are literally my friends. I take care of them, and in turn, they actually take care of me a little. When I’m overwhelmed, I can look at them, see how hard they work to be alive and strive, and I feel more grounded.

When I feel like an utter failure lost in the depths of depression, I can stroke their leaves and feel less alone.

Does anyone else relate to what I’m saying here, or am I just a crazy plant lady? I can’t tell the difference anymore…

Do I care? Uhmmmm not really. I guess it’s because I’m a hippy.

Or maybe I’m just starting to become a well functioning adult.

 

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