Growing season took on more than one meaning for me this year. Once upon a time it would take me ages to get out of bed (a self-employed perk). Before doing anything else, I would scroll through Instagram and then answer any pressing emails, all from my comfy bed, snuggled up in my duvet (my previous version of self-care before). But now, before even picking up my phone in the morning, all I want to do is check on my plant babies.
I Help My Plants Feel Good
Instead of being on my phone, I'm wandering around my London flat checking each and every one of my plants for new growth, such as a new shoot peaking out or a new leaf unfurling (I’ll be honest, I do this several times a day as if a few hours are going to make a huge difference).
After checking for new growth it's time to water (if necessary) or fertilize my plants. After I’ve watered them I clean any leaves that need dusting so that they’re getting every bit of light they can get and then after all of that’s complete I will check my phone.
...And I Feel Good, Too
Thing is, taking care of my plants is a way that I take care of myself. It helps me to slow down, take a deep breath, and just be. It’s my version of self-care, and everyone has their own. Whether it’s relaxing with a good book and a glass of wine, a hot bubble bath and some candles, tidying up, or going outside for a run, the fact is it doesn’t matter what form of self-care you choose as long as it works for you. And mine is taking care of my plants for 20 minutes to an hour each day.
Plants Really Do Help, Experts Say
During that time I’m doing something that I love and that makes me happier. Science backs this feeling. “When you make the decision to care for plants, you’re forging a relationship. Your patience and care can reward you with a healthy, vibrant, and fruitful result,” said psychotherapist and self-care coach Peg Sadie. “This reward triggers the release of dopamine, oxytocin, and even serotonin in your brain, all referred to as your “happy hormones”.”
I’m all for happy hormones being released into my brain. Over the last several months since I started my indoor jungle, I have felt more accomplished than I have in a long time. And that’s because I’m keeping another living thing alive! If you saw me a year or so ago, I could barely keep the one plant I had alive and now I’m keeping 60 alive.
I feel so incredible when I see new growth, especially from a plant that doesn’t grow quickly. I shout about it from the rooftops. I enthusiastically tell anyone who will listen that my Monstera has a new leaf coming out.
The most excited I’ve actually been is when my fiddle-leaf fig put out not one, but TWO leaves at the same time after it not growing at all since I got it. If you have a fiddle-leaf fig, you know this doesn’t happen very frequently and you can probably recall the feeling you had when you saw them growing.
We’re not alone in this. “Plants lend a sense of optimism to the people who care for them,” said Yocheved Golani, a writer and editor at e-counseling.com. Adding:
“We literally watch life unfolding and blossoming due to our handiwork, and take vicarious emotional adventures when some of our fondly regarded plants wither and die despite our best efforts to save them.”
I have to agree because I feel amazing when my plants are thriving and I get a little sad when they aren’t.
Caring for Plants Is a Process
But, I also take the bad with the good. I tell my friends that if they want to see if they can keep a plant alive they need to go buy a plant and do it. You might kill it, but you’ll definitely learn how to care for it. It might be a quick lesson or a long one.
I once had a plant die so slowly that I thought I was doing everything right, but really I was overwatering it when it already had root rot. But case in point: I’ve learned so much from my plant failures (I will never forget to look for root rot now) and in turn it’s made the time I spend tending to them even more special for me.
Like Mother, Like Plants?
And all of that plant care has helped remind me to take care of myself. Like my favorite pothos plant, I get thirsty. So first thing in the morning I drink a big old glass of water. When I rotate my plants so that all sides can get light, it reminds me that I need to go outside for a walk and get some vitamin d for myself. When I repot my plants and see that they’re roots have outgrown their pots, it makes me feel okay when I realize that I’ve outgrown something too.
I’m not going to lie, I’m a little sad that autumn is coming and many of my plants will fall dormant through winter as the growing season comes to an end. I will miss looking for new growth every morning (really, what am I going to do without new leaves?). But, I will still use that first part of my morning to care for my plants and make sure they make it through the darker, colder days, so that they are ready to grow and thrive just in time for spring.