Column: Health benefits of greenery

I am not sure if it is the never-ending dark grey skies, short days of light or just too much sugar, but it has been hard to keep my mood up these days.  Although, we did receive a brief gift of blue skies and sunshine on New Year's Day!

Many articles on happiness are showing up on social media recently.  I read them with fervour hoping for some inspiration.  Little did I realize, I am already creating many happy moments every day and it is usually includes interaction with plants.

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I am a "crazy plant lady."  Our home is filled to the brim with greenery of all sorts.  Our main living area has low light in the winter months so I find myself having a conversation with my plant pets, while moving them temporarily to rooms with more light.  Of course, then I visit my local nursery for another plant that can take lower light to fill the spot I just emptied.  And so it goes.

A new Harvard research recently showed that there is a direct link between women surrounded by lush living plants in their homes to lower mortality rates -- and improved mental health.

The Harvard research followed 100 women over eight years, tracking their mental health and well-being when living surrounded by plants.

Researchers found that the women’s mental health increased so much that it made up a third of their health benefits.  (How come I have a cold right now?)

Living in greener surroundings contributed to decreased levels of stress and depression.  It may also have come from social interactions speaking with others about successes and challenges when looking after plants. (Join your local garden club where we enjoy immersing ourselves year round in all things related to living nature.)  It also showed an increase in physical activity and the benefits of better air quality provided by the greenery in the home.

The colour green generally makes us feel relaxed, so seeing pops of green in many areas of your home certainly contributes to happier feelings.

The "crazy plant lady" moniker continues outside.  On days where we get relief from the rain, we rush over to Paulik Park (the most beautiful secret garden here in Richmond) and continue our work in many of the 30 plus perennial garden beds in the park.

I feel so happy while doing our late season garden chores.  There is minimal pruning, some bulb planting, removal of dastardly weeds, filling the gardens with juicy mulch.  Eagles, singing vireos, towhees, bushtits, hummingbirds and many other of our aviary friends are excited to see us working in the soil exposing wintering insects. 

Of course, our eyes are surrounded by the colour green.  Our bodies and minds are exposed to massive amounts of light and ample doses of vitamin D -- all contributing to decreases in our cortisone levels.  Increased cortisone levels and vitamin D contributes to mood disorders such as depression and seasonal affective disorder.

So add a little "crazy" to your life.  Bring live lush vegetation into your home and go for a walk in the most beautiful park in the City of Richmond.  Oh and cut down on your sugar intake!

Lynda Pasacreta is the current president of the Richmond Garden Club.

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