As we wrap up this year and prepare to greet the next one, there’s often pressure to come up with a plan of how we’ll be better than the current version of ourselves. New Year’s resolutions are a human tradition of reflection that dates back 4,000 years, and yet we rarely live up to our list of lofty goals, even after centuries of practice.
Human resolutions are doomed to fail, year after year, whereas plants are skilled at wintry transformation. Plant lovers know that winter is a time of purposeful dormancy. It’s a reason to prune back old leaves, preserve energy, and make way for future growth when the time is right.
We’ll be honest, this year has been rocky for us as a small business with a recession looming as we enter into 2023. But we have a lot to be hopeful for. We are ending 2022 with so many dreams come true: Our newest creation is out in the world, Horti’s plant sanctuary and indoor plant shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We put our soul into this sunny space, and its opening represents our renewed focus on collaboration, growth and building a community of care.
Amidst fresh changes and even more on the horizon, there’s so much growth we want to reflect on. But first, we need rest. It’s not always clear how to carve out time for care that goes beyond consumeristic #TreatYourself antics, so we look to our plants for pointers.
Whether you’re in a state of stagnation or on the cusp of transformation, there’s really no better time to ask, What Would Plants Do?
The frenzied state of exhaustion between the winter holidays and the incoming new year should tell us all we need to know: We need to chill.
Cold weather is prime naptime for plants. Plant dormancy is essentially a time of slumber when the plant stores up energy, a process of biological rest and suspended animation. The word dormant comes from the Latin verb dormire, which means to sleep. Both plants and some animals go through periods of hibernation when environmental conditions are not optimal for growth, so they hit the proverbial hay.
Instead of pretending things are fine and just keep going, our friendly green creatures have learned to store nutrients, set up the botanical version of an Out of Office Autoreply, and slip into seasonal slumber. Some plants even use dormancy as a survival method beyond the cooler months like Alocasia, a plant that adapts to low-water environments by going dormant if it does not get enough water.
Entering dormancy is gradual, and so should coming out of it. Gradual increases of light, warmth and water allows plants to restart their growth and it’s a good model for us.
After a period of rest, give yourself time to re-enter a more active headspace. Whether that’s quiet breathwork, a relaxing bath, or keeping your social calendar clear the day before a hectic work week begins, give yourself time to prepare your body, mind and spirit for busy days after an extended state of dormancy.
Work with the Season
Notoriously known as the season of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), winter in the Northern Hemisphere can be extremely hard on human mental health.
Your body actually makes more melatonin when it’s dark, as if it’s nature’s way of introducing a seasonal bedtime — that’s why it’s so hard to get out of bed on gloomy days. When daylight hours are cut short and darkness rolls out like a weighted blanket over January and February, winter doldrums can easily become clinical depression.
Plants can teach us a lot during these dark days. They don’t resist the inevitable change of seasons, instead they cooperate with their surroundings and adapt as needed to ensure they survive into spring. While we can’t hibernate from work or easily escape to warmer climates, we can utilize the tools that plants give us to navigate our feelings and find joy where we can.
This means getting outside on sunny days. Bundle up, walk through the park, and soak up some vitamin D. If sunlight is in short supply, grab an LED Light Therapy lamp to use on cloudy days or when you aren’t able to be outdoors.
Your local botanical garden has steamy conservatories filled with plants that can instantly boost your mood. And if you’re near North Brooklyn, come visit us at Horti Play, where giant tropical plants, an indoor glass greenhouse, and a hands-on potting station will satisfy your thirst for spring greenery.
Looking inward can be messy. It takes time to go deep into our minds and the results aren’t always pretty. But this is a crucial element of your personal growth.
Without reflection, we’re just well-rested reboots of our old selves, one year older but none the wiser.
Much like how the soil has a physically soothing bacterium (Mycobacterium vaccae) that acts on our bloodstream similarly to how antidepressants stimulate serotonin production in our brains, when we do a bit of metaphorical digging in the soil of our memory, it can unearth new plans for our future, offering a place of learning and opportunity to plant new seeds of change.
This can look like journaling, scheduling an in-depth therapy session (or your first ever therapy session you’ve been putting off), a tarot card reading, or silent meditation. The key here is to externalize what’s going on inside your mind so that you can see it, respond to it, and start to make realistic changes.
You wouldn’t expect a small dormant plant to immediately emerge in springtime with giant unfurling leaves, so likewise set achievable goals for yourself that you can be proud of when you accomplish them. Plan ahead how you will celebrate your wins and how you will honor the growth that is just over the horizon.
We’re rooting for you to thrive in 2023. We know you’re rooting for us, too.