Did you know that working with plants can be self-care? Rats, you think, as my best laid plans of gardening have failed me in the past. Now you’re reading about it on Thought Catalog, though if you want advice from a professional gardener and plant empath, just get a succulent and water it only when it is dry! Now you have the power to take care of your overall health and well-being by extending it to nurturing another living thing. If you like this experience, you’re not alone. Treatment programs sometimes include horticulture therapy. There are also rehabilitation programs that teach horticulture for employment.
How is sowing seeds self-care? Basically, horticulture is magical! The tactile interactions, outdoors time, sensory experiences like color and scent, and learning and growing with gardening knowledge are great positive feelings that could help with the blues and more. In addition to the amazing therapeutic experiences of working with and even just being surrounded by plants, the English student in you will find amazing therapeutic stories in all the growing (and even dying) plants.
Have you ever spent time with a dog or cat and noticed all the amazing things they have in common with people? Plants can also serve as metaphors for human behavior. Want to learn some examples? Read on, my new gardening friend, and soon you’ll be inspired to “cultivate” this amazing hobby and self-care practice and you’ll find your own metaphors too!
1. You can’t bully plants (or people).
Sometimes people think that bullying people will get them to do what they want, only to find that they are on the receiving end of people hiding their feelings of lack of respect. Plants are like this, too! They don’t like to be moved or potchked with or fiddled with. If you train a vine to grow up a trellis, you can’t move it every day. It will become confused and it will grow slowly, as its energy is just used for repositioning towards the light instead of growing in a secure direction. Ultimately, you realize that all vines grow either clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on their species, and you have to know how to nurture each one in its specific right direction, like starting people in the right direction and letting them grow.
2. Sometimes plants die, just like how other disappointments are inevitable in life.
You could be the best plants person in the world and still lose a plant from time to time. Natural disasters happen, a particularly wet season could wipe out an iris, a particularly hungry deer could wipe out a rose. In life, we can’t expect everything to be perfect, even as we get older and better at life or at plant care. Growing plants can be an exercise in experiencing joy, but not expecting it to last forever. Just like in life, you could enjoy a job but know you still might get fired one day.
3. Babies are super cute in the plant world and human world, and seeing cute things is super mood boosting.
Have you ever started a plant from seed? Seeing its first leaves come out on a tiny stem the size of a bean sprout is a little miracle. Human babies are also charming, so being a gardener and bringing a baby plant into the world can be cuteness therapy time too.
4. Plants and people are all about positive environments.
If you grow a sun plant in shade, or a shade plant in sun, they’re not going to thrive. What are your best environments where you thrive? Talking one on one with a friend in a private place? Hanging out with your family at a concert? Are you at peace driving through a suburban sprawl, listening to Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, or are you feeling zen in a subway seat nestled between two strangers’ perfumes? If you move a dying plant to its correct environment, it might make a comeback!
5. Plants grow differently when they are touching each other, and people grow differently isolated than when they are with other people too.
If you grow a plant singly with mulch around it, it often looks lonely. In nature and in some gardens, plants are layered together and are grown closer together so they are touching each other. Similarly, people who are isolated can certainly grow, and grow up, but without their lives or leaves intertwined with other plants, they often feel or look weaker. In defiance of survival of the fittest, it is the leaning of plants on one another that seems to make them sturdier than growing alone.