Depression, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), When it hurts

Let's Combat SAD–Part 3 Little Green Friends

Combating SAD is NOT for the faint-of-heart.

But it’s easier to get on top of it and stay on top of it if you start early. And it’s easier to defeat if if you are diligent about using the tools we’re talking about.

So far in this series we’ve talked about

Today, we’re going to talk about one of my most favorite things—PLANTS!

Even if you’re not a plant-nerd like I am, it’s hard to deny plants play a significant role in our lives. For example:

  • Every ecosystem starts with plants
    • Plants attract insects and herbivores —> Herbivores attract the omnivores and carnivores
    • Plants are the first to come back after a natural disaster—tornado, fire, volcanic eruption
  • All our food starts with plants —> our meat and beverages (aside from water)
  • Plants and flowers are part of our celebrations and ceremonies —> Weddings, funerals, graduations, births
  • Plants and flowers are common gifts —> Birthdays, anniversaries, after performances, just because

You get the picture.

Plants are important!

You may be thinking, this is great, Cheyenne, but what does this have to do with SAD?

More than you think.

See, plants offer incredible psychological benefits and are natural air scrubbers. They remove pollutants from our indoor and outdoor air which. in turn, has tremendous benefits for our physical health.

And our physical health has a profound impact on our mental health.

A tremendous amount of research has been conducted across the globe over the last 20-25 years to determine the physiological benefits of plants. It’s fascinating reading! And the results of these studies have been so profound, ecopsychology is now an area of study offered at many universities! How awesome is that?!

But we don’t need a psych degree to understand the benefits of plants in our lives. Don’t believe me?

  • Think about the doctor/dentist/counseling offices you feel the most comfortable in.
    • Are they cold and sterile or warm and welcoming?
      • What makes them sterile or welcoming?
      • What color are they painted?
      • Do they have plants, look out on green-space, or have art of the walls that bring the outdoors in?
  • Think about some of your places to drive
    • Are there plants, trees, rolling hills, lush gardens?
  • Think of the landscapes that attract you and the art you prefer
    • Are there plants?

Why do you think this is?

Research has shown the color green, in general, and plants in particular evoke a sense of calm, serenity, and peace. They also:

  • Soothe the heart, soul, and mind
  • Encourage emotional control and mental clarity
  • Reduce stress
  • Act like a cool cloth on raw emotions
  • Increase positivity, elevate hope, and bolster confidence.
  • Beloved, when we’re in the throws of SAD, these things are desperately needed, aren’t they?

Did you know when our work places, schools, and homes are closed up for the winter VOCs (volatile organic compounds) build up in the air we breathe? And did you know these gasses have significant adverse effects on our physical health? And did you know these effects can be chronic and long lived and that they can prolong, enhance, and pave the way for the actual viral and bacterial infections we suffer from every winter?

Friend, we DO know when our immune systems is routinely tanked it’s difficult to get on top of our emotional health. And in the winter, when our buildings are all closed up, Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a substantial cause, instigator, and contributor to chronic health issues like headaches, asthma, flu-like symptoms, dizziness, fatigue, nausea.

I’m not going to go into detail about SBS but I will put a few links in at the end of this post so you can learn more about it. (Please Google it and read more articles. Self-education is a crucial component to overcoming SAD.) However, I am going to tell you how plants can help with this.

Just as plants are natural air purifies outside, they’re also air purifiers inside!

They add absorb the detrimental VOCs while adding humidity and oxygen into the air. This in turn facilitates our health and helps us breathe better.

Here is a list of plants that work well for SBS and are easy to care for:

So, what to do now?

In the winter it’s difficult to find green-space that hasn’t gone dormant. But with a little effort and some research there are options.

Indoor gardens and conservatories.

In St. Paul, MN we’re fortunate to have the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory.

This vast indoor garden/greenhouse possesses several rooms to wander through and explore. While the outside portion entices you to explore its various gardens highlighting different landscaping themes and purposes.

But in the winter, it’s the portion under glass I love.

The air is warm and humid as the sun pours through the glass. Even on cloudy days it’s exceptionally bright inside because of the vast amount of windows. One of my favorite things is watching the sunshine reflect off the foliage—it adds so much cheerfulness of the place! Walking paths entice you to explore; benches offer a chance to linger and be refreshed; and the gentle gurgle from various water features help lull away the stress. Oh, the power of this place!

The atmosphere is blissfully serene. You can hear quiet conversation and subdued laughter, but it’s not enough to disrupt the quiet—even on a busy Saturday, like today. As I sit here writing, I can feel the stress of the past few weeks lift; the heaviness of various circumstance ease; the suffocating nature of complicated emotions dissipate. I’ve had SO MANY distractions over the past few weeks—some good, some ugly—I’ve been struggling to focus and write. The margin I’ve created in my life has been routinely snatched away and I’ve been fighting to get it back and get back on track. But in here, I’m able to focus with very little effort.

I bet you know this: Feeling behind does NOT help combat SAD! But being here—has. Even with so many people walking around, conversations all around me, and children laughing I feel soothed. Refreshed in a way I haven’t in a long while.

I know I’m going to need to step out in the cold soon, snow crunching under my feet. I know reality is waiting for me. And you know what, that’s okay. I’m ready for it now. I wasn’t an hour ago.

What if you don’t have an indoor conservatory to go to?

Or it’s far away and your don’t have time in your schedule to go as often as you would like or need to, are you out of luck?

NOPE!

There are other options.

  • Most zoos have a tropics area you can visit.
  • You can go to a local greenhouse and garden center.
    • The larger the better
    • In the winter, they have herbs and houseplants galore—be sure to bring a new green friend or three home
  • Pop into a local florist and take your time!
    • Seriously, smell the roses—and other flowers. It releases endorphins and Serotonin in your brain
    • Bring home a bunch of daisies, a houseplant, or a flowering potted plant or three.
  • In a pinch, go to your local box store, like Lowe’s or Home Depot, and look in their plant/garden area
    • Just being in there for 10-15 minutes can do wonders for you
    • Personally, I’ve had poor luck with plants from these stores as they’re usually cared for by someone who isn’t sure well versed in how to care for the plants. So the plants tend to be stressed due to being over or under watered which leads to insect and disease issues. But I do know some who’ve been thrilled with their purchase. (I will have purchasing tips at the end of this post)
  • Hy-Vee grocery chain
    • They have a marvelous florist and their products are affordable and of great quality
  • Trader Joe’s is one of my favorite places to buy orchids and cut flowers
    • They are fabulous quality and the most affordable

My point in all this, make an effort to engage with plants. And if possible, bring some home and to you office or dorm room.

Are plants “The Silver Bullet”? No. But they will help. Significantly!

Plus, getting out to spend some time in green space will also help you get some sun and keep you from isolating yourself.

Win-win-win!

Links to read about SBS

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Blessings, xoxo

Cheyenne

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