13 Ways Plants Can Boost Your Health and Happiness
Did you know plants can boost your well-being? A new book, How To Make a Plant Love You, offers some great tips for how we can let plants boost our health and happiness.
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After spending the last year researching and writing my new book, Outsmart Your Smartphone: Conscious Tech Habits for Finding Happiness, Balance, and Connection IRL, I've come to appreciate just how hard it is to write a good book. And of all the books I've read this last year, How To Make A Plant Love You was one of the best books I've read. Why? Because it was different. I learned lots of new things and it even changed my perspective on how to boost well-being (take the well-being quiz to learn more).
Here are 13 tips to boost well-being that I learned from the book:
1. Try forest bathing
Getting in nature and under trees can lower cortisol (the stress hormone), lower blood pressure, and boost parasympathetic activity (the rest and digest system).
2. Use gardening as a meditation
Getting your hands dirty, weeding, and planting can feel calming, almost like a meditation. Plus it puts you in contact with soil (which is good for your microbiome), boosts your levels of vitamin D (from the sun), and exposes you to fresh air.
3. Bring plants indoors
Having a room with a view of nature or indoor plants can help reduce nervousness, anxiety, and tension. So get a house plant; it might boost your well-being.
4. Try matching a plant's disposition
Plants have personalities too. They usually are slow, quiet, calm. To calm yourself, try matching a plant's disposition. Spend some time with a plant and see if you can catch its mood.
5. Join or start your own community garden
Community gardens not only provide fresh food uncontaminated by plastic or other chemicals—they can help reduce feelings of depression. Whether it's through the act of gardening, the social support of the community, or just getting outside, community gardens are a great plant-driven tool to boost well-being.
6. Go to plant swaps
Going to plant swaps are another great way to get social while supporting your exposure to new plants. So see if you can find a plant swap near you to boost your well-being.
7. Notice plants
The practice of "noticing" helps boost mindfulness and awareness. So take a moment to notice plants to develop your mindfulness skills and cultivate a greater awareness for the moment.
8. Appreciate the resilience of each plant
If you really think about it, plants are pretty darn resilient. They push their way deep into the soil and reach way up into the sky. They can even grow in places you wouldn't expect—like when someone tosses away their BLT on the ground and a few weeks later a tomato plant is growing from between the cracks of the sidewalk. So appreciate the resilience of plants to generate a great sense of awe for the miracle of nature.
9. Rescue plants
Saving a wounded, sick, or abandoned plant is an act of kindness that can help you feel a greater sense of meaning in your life.
10. Appreciate what plants do for you
We rarely take a moment to pause and appreciate all that plants do for us. For example, a tree gets chopped down to become our table, cotton gets plucked from the plant to become our shirt, and coffee flies all the way across the world to give us a tasty drink. Take a moment to pause for a moment of gratitude and add this new technique to your gratitude practice.
11. Practice seeing plants as beings
In How To Make A Plant Love You, Summer reminds us that plants are beings too. She calls them foot drinkers. Indeed, they grow, and eat, and die just as we do. Reminding ourselves that plants are beings can help us feel less alone—we can always build a new friendship with a plant.
12. Try to recreate a plant's story
Take a moment to think of a plant-based object—a chair, a bag, your favorite outfit. Now think through its life journey and how it got to you. This mindful exercise can help us feel more interconnected with all things in the world and be more mindful of how we live.
13. Build a relationship with a plant
We truly never have to be alone, because we can always make friends with plants. I, like Summer, enjoy having plant friends. For example, I regularly check in on a few plants in the neighborhood. (It's amazing how quickly they change and grow!) This practice makes my walk to and from daily errands a bit more enjoyable.
About Dr. Tchiki Davis
Dr. Davis is founder of The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. After getting her PhD in psychology at Berkeley, she started creating online content & programs to boost well-being—some of these have reached more than a million people. As author of Outsmart Your Smartphone, and contributor to Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center, and Shine Text, Dr. Davis aims to share her insights on happiness & health with people all across the world. Learn more about Dr. Davis.