There is no getting around the fact that virtually all Americans are managing an inordinate amount of stress at present. Even those of us that have been fortunate enough not to have been directly impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria or the horrific mass murder in Las Vegas (the worst mass murder in U.S. history), the refrains of these tragedies play over and over in our minds and create significant anxiety, depression, anger, and confusion.
These intense emotions seem to come in waves and just when we start to think we are okay, another wave hits (Hurricane reference intentional). We admire those who have survived and persevere despite their own losses and we ache for those who are gone.
You see, here at The Fat Plant Society, we have been feeling really helpless amidst the destruction, chaos, and violence of late, and while the urge to go to bed, pull the covers over our heads and hide or scream at the top of our lungs is quite pronounced, we have this business to run. And because we are human, we (like everyone else) have additional issues to contend with on top of the stress our nation is under– from losing a parent to chronic illness, to how the heck to pay for health care. This is life. It can be tough.
These are tough times for all of us.
And nearly unbearable times for others.
We wonder how others find the strength to keep going.
We have found that for us, it is the plants themselves that have been helping us through these terribly tough times.
We certainly do not purport that buying and caring for plants is the penultimate answer to these horrors and tragedies, but we would like to humbly submit a way to help manage that stress and anxiety (if only a little) and we even have the science to back it up.
So we gave it some thought, talked it over, and decided that we wanted to share just five reasons that going to work and getting our hands dirty has not been tortured, in fact, it has been immensely helpful in coping and here’s why:
Plants connect to us living things and take us outside of ourselves.
We have noted our inclination is to feel that we are alone in the anxiety, panic, and feeling of helplessness–that our own worries and concerns (from the great, big, scary, world to the financial stress of building a business) are winning. The reality is that today, pretty much every American feels that way and that is how it is likely going to be for a while. So the task is to not beat ourselves up for feeling anxiety but to find a way to get outside our own heads for a while. Essentially, plants and live moss help us relax and get outside of ourselves.
Nurturing is good for our self-esteem
Everyone gets a self-esteem boost from nurturing–be it a child, an idea, a business, or a wonderfully simple plant. Plants are incredibly easy to nurture and we can see the benefits of our nurturing almost instantaneously. Plants help us relax.
Plants contain microbes that fight depression
Mycobacterium vaccae is the substance that scientists have been studying and it has been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium is found in soil stimulates serotonin production, which makes us happier as well as more relaxed. As the folks at Gardening Know How note, “studies were conducted on cancer patients and they reported a better quality of life and less stress. Lack of serotonin has been linked to depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and bipolar problems. The bacterium appears to be a natural antidepressant in soil and has no adverse health effects. These antidepressant microbes in soil may be as easy to use as just playing in the dirt.”
You can read the full post on the Gardening Know How Website: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/antidepressant-microbes-soil.htm
Gardening keeps us in touch with the cycle of life through ritual
The bright minds at Psychology Today understand the human need for ritual and perhaps that need is amplified in times of great stress, anxiety, fear, and sadness. As Sarah Rayner notes in her article, Petal Power: Why Is Gardening So Good For Our Mental Health?,
” Rituals can help us work through difficult emotions, including grief, and gardening is a form of ritual involving both the giving of life and acknowledgment of its end; it’s symbolic of regeneration. It’s no coincidence we create gardens of remembrance and mark the scattered ashes and graves of our loved ones with roses, shrubs, and trees; by doing so we’re acknowledging that from dust we all come and to dust we return.”
This is in no way meant to diminish the horrendous grief so many of us are feeling but ritual can be a means of helping to process that grief…in due time, of course.
Plants are actually social and help us work toward a shared goal
All the way back in 2003, Mental Health Nursing Researchers concluded that for those in mental health units and prison, the social nature of group gardening is beneficial because it centers on collective skills and aspirations. At the same time, caring for a plant and garden is wonderfully individual and allows for the use of creative skills along with the nurturing skills mentioned above. We have noted that when we work together to meet a project deadline and ensure all of the plants look their very best, we foster a sense of team that is inspiring and energizing in a way that we just can’t find without our human and plant connections.
Plants need us and they give back so willingly and freely
Without our daily care, the plants will literally die. Honestly, sometimes that is reason alone to get out of bed, even on the toughest day. The plants are sweet and innocent and they need that water and food and we could no more neglect them than we could neglect a child or a dog in our care. But they give back in the form of oxygen and brave, inspiring, constant growth. They keep growing and changing and that is what we aspire to do as well. Plants remind us there are no constants. And we like to think, optimistically, that growth and positive change is always attainable.
So as we extend our very most heartfelt condolences to those who have lost in immeasurable ways of late, we very humbly submit that caring for plants may help, just a little, as we try and process the tragedies all around us, all the time, every day.
However corny or trite is might be to quote the immensely talented Tom Petty the day after his death, this song, like the plants, sings of hope. We are all in need of hope right now. Thank you, Tom. Rest your soul.
You belong among the wildflowers
You belong somewhere close to me
Far away from your trouble and worries
You belong somewhere you feel free
Thank you for reading. Don’t lose hope.
-Morten and Kasey