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New plant parents, budding urban gardeners, and outdoor enthusiasts unite! You don't need a green thumb to harness the goodness plant life has to offer, just be sure to get in touch with something green each day to feel better.
Love the smell of soil? Feel better after getting your hands in the garden or spending an afternoon repotting houseplants? Turns out there's a scientific reason for that feeling of quiet tranquility that follows time well spent with our green friends...Bacteria!
Bacteria are the most numerous life forms on our planet, and one specific bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, a microbe present in soil, increases the release of serotonin in our bodies. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for sending and receiving messages throughout our nervous system, and also functions as the hormone responsible for mood, digestion, appetite and emotions. What's even more fascinating is that new research suggests serotonin increases our ability to learn. Although studies show the effects are temporary, it's exciting to think how more exposure to M vaccae means a brighter mind too!
Personally I like to think of serotonin as the happy hormone and am living proof that the more time spent with plant life and connecting with the natural world, the happier I feel. Stress melts away and I get lost for short periods of time, always reemerging in a happier state of mind and body. I offer ways for you to begin this practice in Sacred Elements Guidebook too!
Lucky for us, Mycobacterium vaccae can be found almost anywhere outdoors including your garden, on a nature walk, and in the potting soil of your houseplant!
Let's do a simple imaginary exercise together. Close your eyes. Begin by picturing a typical office space complete with cubicles, desks, computers, and chairs. Take a deep breath and feel how the air in that environment hits your nose and how it looks to gaze around that space from one of those chairs. Try to put yourself in that space for a minute and just breathe there. Now, begin working on your computer in that environment. Give it a minute to really feel the keyboard beneath your fingertips and screen before your eyes. Ready to begin work?
Ok, go ahead and open your eyes. Does that feel like an appealing place to spend the bulk of your waking hours?
Now try this: Close your eyes again and envision that same office space but add in pops of lush, green, potted plants. Place ferns on desktops, pothos and philodendron drape from ceiling hooks, snake plants perched on file cabinets, ficus and monstera stand tall beside cubicle walls and window panes. Now, take an imaginary seat and let your eye travel around the room again. Breathe in deeply and feel the atmosphere. Do you feel more alive with that added color, texture and subtle scent of earth? How does it feel when you start to type on that computer now?
When we surround ourselves with plants, we transform a sterile environment into an atmosphere much more suited to the habitat our minds and bodies are accustomed to. We have spent most of our human existence living outdoors, evolving in symbiosis with the Earth. No wonder being in our natural environment effectively increases short term memory retention and overall concentration.
We know how eating a more plant based diet nourishes our bodies. But how do they nourish our mind?
Most of our lives are filled with subtle and not so subtle stressors. Alarm clocks, traffic, grocery store parking lots, social obligations, family or pet responsibilities, work deadlines, not to mention the ongoing battle with human rights issues, covid, climate change and nightmare politics that are the undercurrent of our daily lives. These stressors build up over time until our threshold for dealing with them (or anything for that matter) seems overwhelming. That's often due to our body being flooded with too much cortisol.
Cortisol is the body's stress hormone. A wonderful thing for survival when running away from a tiger, not so lovely when we get small hits from it day after day, all day, everyday. Our brains continue to release small doses of cortisol to cope with fight or flight situations, regardless of severity. And friends, these days, do you really blame it?
When we have too much cortisol for long periods of time it leads to anxiety, heart disease, headaches, weight gain, sleep disorder, compromised immune system, and depression. Working with houseplants, going for a stroll among the trees, or working in the garden for just 30 minutes can drastically reduce cortisol levels and bring your body back into balance. How? By allowing your mind to be fully present and in the moment.
Humans spend 85% of their time indoors but have spent the majority of our existence outside in nature. When we take time to care for our plants, we reconnect with our natural environment and our minds and bodies feel at home again. Consider it a symbiotic relationship where both plants and humans benefit!
When we feel more connected to the world around us we are grounded and feel more deeply rooted in ourselves. Think of it as a reset button to be centered and balanced. You will experience more self love, self confidence and compassion. This naturally ripples outward to feeling more connected to family, friends and strangers. Spending time outside, among the trees, garden, or Sacred Space with your houseplants will allow you to deepen the connection to our natural world.
Hope this encourages you friends!
Karina and Team SE
A manual that will lead you to connect with the natural world, and encourage you to make it a daily ritual.
You’ll find Karina’s signature plant life imagery, sensory guided experiences and meditations, plant care tips, step by step guidance to create your own sacred space, and ways to live more sustainably.
*20% of the proceeds of every Sacred Elements Guidebook sold will go to organizations that supporting small, independent farmers and educate children to grow their own food.