Nurturing My Budding Green Thumb Helped My Mental Health In Ways I Didn't Expect

plants with chair

STOCKSY

Despite being a freelance journalist—a profession in which no two days are the same—I’m a big planner. I like to make multiple lists, fill my social calendar weeks in advance, and have somewhat of a routine, even if that just meant taking my favorite spin class every week. No matter what a day throws my way, I have always taken solace in the fact that I’m in control of my life, career, and schedule. 

But 2020 happened, and it was pretty rocky from the start. In January, someone broke into our rental car on the way to Lake Tahoe and stole a backpack that housed almost all of my possessions, including my laptop. In February, my boyfriend and I had a bed bug scare after a trip to Boston and spent the following week in complete panic. Spoiler alert: It was a false alarm.

Then came March, and the world as we knew it changed virtually overnight. Not to completely throw me a pity party, but this all occurred a few months after I moved across the country to San Francisco, far away from my comfort zone. 

Suddenly, everything I once had control over felt so up in the air. My to-do lists were cut in half. My social calendar was limited to a few Zoom calls and watching the Ocean’s trilogy with my boyfriend. And while I was able to create a decent WFH routine, I missed planning what I would do and when. Since this bizarre new normal feels somewhat indefinite, it felt like everything I once had control over slipped through my fingers.


Caring for yourself is like caring for your plants: you need food, water, and plenty of sunlight. Even when life gets hard and you feel like you have no control, there’s always an opportunity to grow. 

However, over the past few months, I found some control in an unlikely source: plants. Sure, we all know that houseplants are known to purify the air, reduce stress, and boost your mood. But for me, they were the mental health check I didn’t know I needed. 

Before the pandemic, I was a pretty lousy plant parent. I would buy a bunch of leafy greens and water them from time to time, but never saw any real results. Instead of watching them grow, my plants’ leaves and flowers would turn yellow or shrivel up. Not necessarily a good sign.

But, perhaps the one thing more frustrating than having no control of your own life is feeling all the feels while surrounded by a bunch of dying plants. Since my plant parenthood status was one of the very few things I could control, I wanted to change it for the better.  So, I went out and bought lots of plant food. I repotted the greenery that didn’t fit in planters perfectly. I experimented with lighting, rotated my pots, and created a very strict watering schedule. 

In a year when it seems like the only thing to do is survive, I was hellbent on making sure my plants did, too. Truthfully, doubling down on my plant parenting felt great. It can be all too easy to get caught up in everything that’s going wrong, especially in 2020. Yet, my little leafy greens gave me the reality check that I needed. Life isn’t perfect, but it’s important to appreciate the little things. Plus, it felt good to care for another living thing. It made me feel like no matter what was going on, things were going to be okay.

It felt good to care for another living thing. It made me feel like no matter what was going on, things were going to be okay.

Not only have my plants survived, but they’ve actually thrived. My Alocasia Polly and aloe plants sprouted new leaves and are both in desperate need of repotting. My money tree is almost up to my shoulders. The anthurium I bought from my neighborhood hardware sale isn’t perfect, but we’re getting there. I even added a new plant to my collection: a petite Parlor Palm that rests on my bar cart. It seems so simple, but there’s something so satisfying about watching a plant that was once in critical condition sprout new branches, leaves, and flowers. 

At the end of the day, caring for yourself is like caring for your plants: you need food, water, and plenty of sunlight. And, even when life gets hard and you feel like you have no control, there’s always an opportunity to grow. 

Article Sources
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  1. Lee M, Lee J, Park B-J, Miyazaki Y. Interaction with Indoor Plants May Reduce Psychological and Physiological Stress by Suppressing Autonomic Nervous System Activity in Young Adults: A Randomized Crossover StudyJ Physiol Anthropol. 2015;34(1):21. doi:10.1186/s40101-015-0060-8

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