My son, Luke, just published his first piece here at Curiosity Shots. I did not read this essay until it was published. My oldest son, Wyatt, referred to me as ‘The Mommy Lady’ when he was two-years-old and the name stuck.
I am one very proud Mommy Lady to share Luke’s essay here.
Green Space: The Release, The Repose
by Luke Wink-Moran
When lockdown began, back in March, I decided that I wanted to try something new. I would begin every day with an outdoor walk. Outside, in the early morning air, the sky opening up above me, everything else faded away — which was good — because everything else was a lot: the coronavirus, the election, a national reckoning with race, the headlines got worse every day. It was only on my walks that I could forget everything for a while.
I started seeking out nature in other ways beyond my walks. I spent hours in the garden with my mom, watching honeybees circle our sunflowers while hummingbirds jousted over the sugar water feeders.
My sister and I scoured the internet for houseplants, and that spring, our rooms bloomed with life. The books I read led back to nature, too. “World of Wonders” by Aimee Nezhukumatathil filled my head with whale sharks and fireflies as I read in the predawn light.
Even when I played video games with my sister, we were still kind of outdoors — running around our digital island in Animal Crossing, catching butterflies, and shaking peaches from trees.
Not all that surprisingly, and perhaps as expected, we were not the only ones spending more time and energy in nature. In Britain, sales of plants, bulbs, seeds, saw sales increase 35% from 2019, some individual online plant stores saw an increase of 500%, going through a few months’ worth of supplies in a few weeks. Animal Crossing became the most popular Nintendo game of 2020. “World of Wonders,” became the Barnes & Noble book of the year and was ranked as of the top five New York Times nonfiction bestsellers. Nature, it seemed, was growing on people.
I wondered why, in a time of such extraordinary stress, people were turning to nature for comfort. As doom-scrolling became a national pastime and the world migrated to the internet, why were mountain trails and gardens becoming more popular? Why, with 53% percent of Americans reporting that coronavirus had negatively impacted their mental health, were houseplants flying off the shelves as fast as toilet paper?
It turns out that nature has some serious mental health benefits. It can lead to greater happiness and life satisfaction, improve mood and memory, and reduce anxiety and stress. In fact, nature is so good for us that some doctors are writing “social prescriptions” recommending that patients spend more time outdoors or gardening for their health and wellbeing. An over-the-counter fix.
Gardening in particular has been studied for its mental health benefits. In her book “The Well-Gardened Mind ” Sue Stuart Smith suggests that gardening can be a state of play that we may find nowhere else in our adult lives.
Despite my own experience and contrary to popular beliefs, you don’t need a garden to benefit from green space. Most of the scientific literature indicates that you just need to be immersed in nature. Being immersed in nature has been shown to decrease depression scores and even reduce pain perception. As someone coming up on a three-year anniversary with a chronic injury, this is one aspect of nature that I absolutely adore.
Surpassing the physical, plants may even boost productivity and creativity — something that I personally have struggled with over lockdown. While studies conflict — some show a productivity boost, and some don’t — even employees who didn’t think that greenery made them more productive reported that plants made the office feel friendlier and cleaner.
I realized that I’ve been reaching out for green space for the last nine months. In the books I read, the games I played, and the places where I spent my time, the benefits of living around — and regularly interacting with — green space are clear to me. And while 2020 may have been when I truly discovered how good for you nature can be, I, for one, can’t imagine giving up my walks anytime soon.
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Luke created for quarantine Mother’s Day, 2020.