Create Some Breathing Space

Technology is great but being “plugged in” 24/7 will drive anyone a little crazy. I find myself craving some peace and quiet and more and more of us are seeking healthy and quiet places to unwind; hence the concept of the breathing room is born! These rooms allow people to connect with nature and take a breather at the same time.

Statistics show that more than 50% of Americans are aware of the potentially harmful effects of indoor air pollution and are increasingly using indoor plants to combat it. A breathing room will take advantage of this knowledge and allow you to clean the air and your mind simultaneously. A recent study from the State University of Oswego confirmed that plants help us to breathe easier and can remove up to 80% of pollutants from indoor rooms.

Creating your own breathing room is not overly complicated and comes down mostly to your own personal taste. A spare room in your home or maybe an unused office at work can easily be turned into an oasis from the pressures of the day. Whether you are seeking space for meditation or silent reflection the key is to focus on being able to relax. Perhaps the addition of a tabletop water feature or soothing background music will help you in this endeavor. Dim lights and an easy chair might help jumpstart your day and even a quick nap in the afternoon could help you finish it.

Once you’ve found your space and decided on any amenities for it you’ve got to pick some plants to complete it.

Here are just a few suggestions you can consider:

  • Upright plants such as a Palm Tree or Dracaena are good choices for corners of a room. A Ficus Tree is a popular choice in many offices around the country and for brighter rooms try a Norfolk Pine.
  • Hanging plants including Ferns and Philodendrons are easy to find and don’t be surprised if you see inverted pots with plants hanging upside down. These are known as flower pot pendants and are said to be the next big indoor gardening trend.
  • Don’t forget flowering plants! Kalanchoe, Peace Lily and African Violets can add some color to your breathing room. Orchids will provide an exotic look and for seasonal interest try Poinsettia, Easter Lily or Christmas Cactus.
  • They may not be plants that come to mind right away but don’t forget herbs. Basil, Parsley, and Chives are a few that you can try and the fragrance of Lavender can be particularly soothing.

We can all use a respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Maybe a breathing room is something we all need to have?

And, Nature Rx for Feeling Better…

Anxiety is fast approaching the status as the #1 health problem in the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) is predicting that by 2030 anxiety will surpass obesity as the largest threat to our overall well-being. Our need to be “plugged in” 24 hours a day, every day, immerses us in a sea of negativity. Try watching the news on television or reading about it online and it won’t take long for you to want to “run to the hills” but perhaps that is where we really need to be going.

It should really be no surprise to find out that a whole industry has arisen to help us get away from our stress. The self-styled wellness economy, which includes wellness tourism and spas, is a nearly $4 trillion dollar industry and analysts expect it to grow significantly in the next few years. It seems like an awful lot of money to spend on “clearing one’s head” but perhaps it is more indicative of just what type of priority this has become to us. However, some of the medicine to heal us from this stress and anxiety may actually be right outside our backdoors.

The physical benefits of gardening are well documented but maybe not enough attention has been paid to the mental health benefits it can provide. I have talked to many gardeners who, like myself, find their garden to be an oasis from a world that often appears to offer no such refuge.

Here are just a few of the mental health benefits that gardening provides to me personally:

  • Gardening allows me to slow things down. By making time to garden, I can take my time to process the problems of the day or even decide to ignore them altogether for just a little while. I know that I’ve made better decisions after spending even just a short amount of time in my garden and big obstacles seemed more manageable too.
  • Gardening fuels my creativity. I’ve often joked that some artists work in clay or with paint and that my medium is dirt. There is a self-satisfaction that comes from getting just the right color combination in your perennial border or the first flower or fruit from a plant that you’re growing for the first time.
  • Being in the garden is a spiritual experience for me. Listening to the birds sing or watching an insect at work even for just a few moments helps bring me back to the realization that there is a larger world around me and it helps me to better “see the bigger picture” of God’s creation.

While gardening and nature appear to be a “new age” way to improve our spiritual wellness the reality is that people have been seeking sanctuary in growing things for thousands of years. Research shows that the ancient Persians created “relaxation gardens” and the basis of the religion of Shintoism is that spiritual powers exist in nature. I guess “stopping and smelling the roses” is really more than just an idiom.