By Uma Raja
Life is often celebrated for the big, dramatic moments, but I’ve found that it’s the little things that provide the greatest joy. Although I live alone, I am always accompanied by friends–the six little plants that sit on my windowsill. Even when the day drags on and the mountain of homework is endless, I watch the sunlight glisten through the leaves of my lucky bamboo, and I remember happiness can be found anywhere.
For people with severe depression, finding the motivation to wake up every day can be an enormous task. However, the feeling of accomplishing just one duty, such as nurturing a plant that relies on you, can be an inspiring motivator. I see plants as a metaphor for mental health itself. If you put in the work, and make an effort every day, slowly, a pot of dirt blossoms into something beautiful. Progress may not always be linear–sometimes life gets in the way, and your plant starts wilting. But with some tenderness, understanding, and maybe a bit of plant food, you and your plant will be thriving once again.
For those unfamiliar with plants, I recommend either an adorable succulent or a colorful coleus. Succulents include cacti and aloe. While it depends on the specific type, succulents typically require water about once a month. They are the easiest kind of plant to take care of, and overwatering is the only real threat they face.
I have a special relationship with my coleus, as I received it in my freshman year of college in my “Plants, Gardening, and You” class. Each week, I attended a one-hour lecture on different kinds of plants. The real highlight, though, was at the end of the lecture, where everyone received a free plant. My coleus started out small and lanky, but it managed to survive in my moldy, sunless dorm room. When I moved into an apartment the next year, I repotted it and let it bask in the sunlight. It tripled in size in a matter of weeks! I love all my plants (and I know it’s wrong to have a favorite child), but my bias cannot be denied.
A coleus should be watered approximately twice a week, when the soil is notably dry. This variety of plant has an amazing ability to bounce back from the brink of death, so it’s a great choice for beginners. Trust me, if a coleus can survive in my dorm room, it can survive anything.
If you have a friend or family member that is struggling, a plant can be a thoughtful and inexpensive gift. Every time that person looks at their plant, they’ll be reminded of you. My mom bought me a stout little cactus in October. To my surprise, it started blossoming miniature pink flowers throughout February! I wasn’t aware that the cactus was a flowering breed, and with each sprouting flower I spotted, I thought of my mom and how much she loves me.
Remember this–although life can be hard, so much meaning can be found in the smallest things. If you’re feeling down, pick up a plant. I hope that you and your leafy companion can blossom together.