I don’t know about you, but here spring has definitely “popped” and the weeds are threatening to take over. It’s no longer just daffodils, EVERYTHING seems to be covered in a shade of green.
Option #1 = Gardening
Green thumb, black thumb, brown thumb, whatever color your thumb, you can do a bit of gardening. If something doesn’t fit your world, tweak it or tone it down – the underlying principle is the important part.
The traditional “get out every morning to water, weed, and harvest” routine (the one that the retired couple at the end of the block do to keep their yard looking too perfect) is the aspirational level of stress busting for option #1.
Not strenuous enough that you need to a gym membership before you start. Bonus points are awarded to sunlight: Vitamin D plays a vital role in our emotional well-being and helps stave off depression.
Double bonus points for being in the dirt – it’s like an adult sandbox on steroids. Dirt has microbes that do more than feed the plants, they also feed your soul. (Not literally, that would be weird. Don’t eat dirt). Mycobacterium vaccae is the scientific name for a specific microbe which has a similar effect as Prozac, just without all the side effects and costs. Walk barefoot in a park or your garden. Take off the garden gloves for a portion of your tasks.
The reason soil microbes have such a huge impact is that they stimulate serotonin, the happy brain chemical. Low levels of serotonin leave us depressed, anxious, and prone to other mental problems. If you need any more reason to give it a go – proper levels of serotonin lead to increased cognitive ability, lower stress (yay!), and better concentration.*
For those without a yard, a potted plant will do. For the black thumbs, try a succulent – they need almost zero attention and are popular for a reason.
Option #2 = Forest Bathing
No, this does not involve filling your bathtub with leaves or mulch. It requires zero input on your end besides getting off the couch and out your front door. (and yes, putting down your phone)
Ideally, you would walk through a forest or other area where the only sights and sounds are the forest canopy. Hence, forest bathing – soaking in the experience of being in the forest. The Japanese term is “Shinrin-yoku” (for all the ins and outs: go here). It’s benefits are scientifically proven and even just stumbling in the right direction gets you benefits.
Science backed benefits of Forest Bathing:
Boosted immune system
Reduced blood pressure
Increased ability to focus
Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
Increased energy level
Just for taking a walk in the woods!
Forested areas in cities have been declining in recent years, so if you have one available take advantage. If you don’t, the same benefits can be had by merely seeing vegetation and trees – even just a planter on the side of the road! (obviously the benefits of seeing a potted plant are less than being in a forest, but the science backs up the potted plant too).
I would say breathe deeply, but it’s also pollen season ….. If you can though, go for it.
We evolved in nature and it’s only in the past few centuries that we have chosen to surround ourselves with concrete, steel, and glass. Our chemistry doesn’t change that fast – we still need nature.
Katie calls Richmond, VA home with her husband and all the furry, four-legged creatures he and municipal code will allow. She has spent years bringing her anxiety under control, learning to trust her intuition, and dreaming of a world where people live in sustainable harmony. She is addicted to popcorn, avoids wearing shoes, should do yoga but doesn't, reads non-fiction for fun, and reluctantly gave up caffeine in search of peace. Just don’t ask her to give up sugar (read: ice cream).