As humans, we long to nurture and be nurtured. It’s an understatement to say that times are challenging as the normal routines of daily life have been upended. This election season has been stressful to say the least but when politics and a pandemic leave you feeling hopeless, it’s important to cultivate a sense of purpose, to find comfort in the place you call home.
Plants aren’t great at phone banking, registering to vote or filling out ballots but they can provide the calming vibes you need to make it through the next month and beyond. The rituals of plant care can help divert your attention from despairing thoughts and focus them on the tender greens at hand. Plants can provide the anchoring support that you crave in the midst of collective tension, no six-foot distance required.
If the pandemic has ushered in hellish levels of anxiety and left you feeling like a captive among familiar trappings, turn your attention to the green creatures growing in your corners who have been training their whole lives to thrive inside. Who better to help you cultivate new habits rooted in gratitude during the days, weeks and months to come?
Touch Your Plants Instead of Your Mask.
There’s no doubt that by now your quota of human touch is abysmally low. Even if you’re surrounded by loved ones, extending a tender hand to waxy leaves soothes as it stimulates growth for you and your plants. Houseplants, unlike roaming humans, make microscopically slow and steady movements that facilitate a sense of calm—a quiet reminder that they’re still alive in an increasingly sterilized world.
Research shows that plants can feel it when they are being touched. Their growth is slow and steady, quiet enough to elicit surprise at new shoots or the heights reached by wandering vines, but interactive enough that a few missed waterings will make their demands for attention loud and clear. Plants are in constant motion, curiously seeking out support for their stems and nourishment from the sun’s rays.
Stimulation like a gentle splash from the watering can or a soft cloth wiping away dust can trigger distinct sensations inside of plants. These touch responses set off signals inside of them to prepare for the future like redirecting gene expressions, activating defense systems and adjusting their metabolism. Plants lack our animal instinct of flight or fight because unlike humans, they are rooted to their environments and unable to flee, so it’s their heightened sensitivities to light, temperature and touch that aid them in survival. Your tender caress, light misting and careful pruning can give your houseplants a welcomed boost they need to keep growing.
Plant More, Zoom Less.
The more that virtual reality encompasses your every waking moment, the more you need time without any screens to ponder something tangible tied to the rewilding world outside. Studies show that the closer in proximity humans are to greenery—the real stuff, not plastic replicas—even if it’s a distant tree outside of the window, the more relaxed and focused we’ll be.
Plant care is a beautiful exchange that allows us to nurture something outside of ourselves, giving a sense of purpose amidst the mundane day-to-day. The presence of plants in the homes and at the workplace is proven to decrease stress and bring soothing vibes to our surroundings. People who are uprooted or confined indoors need stimulation and routine to-dos beyond mealtime to stay positive. Not only do plants make environments more cheerful, houseplants are splendid companions for folks with low mobility and who live in isolation. Plants can even help us to heal, if we will let them.
The resilience of life itself is represented in the form and shape of plants. There’s a deep seeded evolutionary wisdom planted in your psyche that’s unlocked when you sit still among the leaves. Not only do houseplants brighten the rooms they inhabit and leave the air a little cleaner than the way they found it, their mere presence has been proven to help humans manage stress (currently at an all-time high), reclaim our fleeting inner peace and focus on joy.
Talk To Your Plant Because They’re Already Listening.
Science shows that plants respond to sound, whether it’s the soaring notes of a symphony, the quiet messages they communicate with each other, or the gentle cadence of a human voice. When the Royal Horticultural Society conducted a study to see how plants react to human voices, they did so by having individuals read aloud excerpts from Shakespeare, Wyndham and Darwin to garden tomato plants which responded with increased growth.
You don’t have to recite a sonnet to your houseplants to get their attention, but recognizing that you have an unwavering audience might give the sounds you make a new sense of purpose. Unlike your downstairs neighbors, plants welcome karaoke ballads at all hours and they won’t breathe a word about what happened in therapy. And at the end of a long day, they enjoy hearing a soothing greeting or word of praise just like the rest of us.
When you’ve reached your limits, remember that the bandwidth of plants is boundless. And as much as your voice is good for them, it’s good for you, too. Maintaining optimism and a sense of gratitude has been shown to improve mood, aid in coping with hardship, and affect the human psychological and immune responses to stress. Not only can bringing a new plant into your home can make being stuck indoors more bearable, but in taking time to nurture your plants, you’re ensuring you will be more resilient, too.
Horti tip: Register to vote so your plants don’t judge you. Time is running out so head to Vote.org to get started!