If you didn't adopt a pet in the last 18 months, chances are you brought at least one plant into your home. Many people were drawn to the ability to care for something during a time when caring for oneself felt (and continues to feel) difficult. But the ideas are interconnected. You can learn a lot from your plants and, by caring for them, you care for yourself.
"Houseplants are an invitation to fostering this relationship with the natural world and bringing it indoors...Simply looking at plants reduces stress, increases, productivity, elevates mood," says Emily Murphy, regenerative gardener, author, and photographer. "You might get to a point where you wonder, 'Wait, am I tending to my plants or are my plants tending to me?'"
During the lates episode of The Well+Good Podcast, Well+Good senior producer Taylor Camille chats with Murphy, plant doctor and stylist Maryah Greene, and interior designer and licensed therapist Anita Yokota about how plants impact our lives and why gardening is a form of self-care whether you have a sprawling plot or a tiny pot.
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As someone who has killed many plants in her lifetime, Greene appreciates the connection between a plant and its caretaker. "To know that this one thing, its life and its ability to flourish is dependent upon me not screwing up, it feels like an amazing responsibility," says Greene, the host of Greene Thumb by Well+Good, a series on the Well+Good YouTube channel. "It's the instant gratification of seeing something live and knowing that you were a really big part of the reason [it's alive]. Nature is going to nature, but you are a big part of the reason that this is able to survive in your apartment."
While the act of successfully caring for plants alone can improve your confidence and sense of self, just being around greenery can benefit your mood. "From a psychological point of view, we are definitely drawn to the color green because it symbolizes renewal," says Yokota. "Research has shown that we are drawn to the color green because it's refreshing...and it de-stresses us. The stress hormone cortisol immediately goes down."
Time spent with plants allows us to learn more about nature, thus getting more and more out of it. "We talk a lot about our IQ or our emotional quotient, but there's also our nature quotient," which is now aware of nature you are, says Murphy. Maybe you start noticing birds or maybe you start noticing the butterflies that visit, that's your nature quotient going up. "We're starving for that and our lexicon, or the language we have for nature, and how that feeds us only improves and increases the more time we spend tending nature."
Watching plants live can remind us how to best live our lives by prioritizing what we need to grow and to stay healthy.
"The idea that [plants] go dormant during the winter and they're prepping for their season, I like to think of that like on a smaller scale," says Greene. "There's no way for me to be a hundred every single day if I don't take time for myself. My job is very much rooted in me giving, I'm constantly giving, I'm teaching. And so the plants remind me, when I take a step back, that I can only give to other people when I'm fully recharged."
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