Pink wildflowers in Illinois state park
Curing the Gardening Phobia

How to Get a Soft Place to Land

So by lunchtime today, the “finished” work you had sent only 2 days earlier was already back in your inbox. The client had changed the specs and now needs some serious rewrites. And…oh yeah…the new specs came through without any suggested change to the end date.

You were on the phone within the hour negotiating a move to that date…got some leeway… but not as much as you really need…and of the 4 members on your team, 1 will be starting maternity leave on Friday, and another is going on vacation. You’ve had a bad day, and you’re looking at a rough couple of weeks ahead.

Is your home a “soft place to land,” as Dr. Phil calls it? While you think about the answer to this question, here is a pretty picture to brighten your rough day…

bare crabapple tree with surprising Fall blossoms
Sudden Fall blossoms on a bare crabapple tree

Work You Don’t Get Paid For

Some “work” is in the “have to” category…like laundry…like make the kids’ lunch…get the kids to their lessons…get the car to the shop to fix the brakes…mow the lawn before you get an abatement notice…call the plumber to fix the shower…

These tasks all contribute to the working order of your home. They have to get done. You can’t send everybody off on Monday morning without clean underwear…or without a car that will actually get them to their destinations.

But then, other work is in the “should” category…I should vacuum…I should organize the closet…clean out the fireplace…cook dinner instead of going out again…try to fix the mower instead of running out to buy a new one…practice piano…I should…

These tasks on some level are self-imposed, and while they might be rewarding on many levels—and eventually might become necessary—no one today is actually depending on them for their livelihood or health…at least not in my hypothetical world here…

Yeah, I put vacuuming in the “should” list…

Investing in Peace for Yourself

The should list is different for everybody. As is the list of quality down time activities…different for us all.

I know everybody talks about quality down time…but have you done anything about it other than give it a little lip service? How do you secure some quality down time?

The best laid plans…they might go awry…but do you even have any plans?

In the thick of Fall, and with Winter coming, you might be dreaming of extended lazy time in bed on Saturday mornings…Or reading in front of the fireplace…tailgating…family movie night…church holiday events…a Saturday biking trip with friends…game night… skiing trip…

Most of these provide some anticipation in the planning, and likely nostalgic moments of happiness as well. A recent study compared the power of anticipation versus nostalgia to increase happiness…and found that anticipation wins.

Not bad…but there is still something better…that pays exponential dividends.

Invest in the Slow-Rewards School

From my blog title, The 1-Hour Gardener, you might be guessing that my recommendation might have something to do with gardening. And you’d be right…but for us Northerners, after the first frost, is there anything left to do?

And…by the way…some of you may be thinking…isn’t the yard just more work?

Well…in my slow-rewards school…you might be surprised at what category psychologists and medical doctors are now putting it in. “Take a hike!” is no longer an insult…but a medical prescription.

In my real world, I advocate for gardening as a triple investment:

  1. as immediate quality downtime and stress release;
  2. as great exercise;
  3. as a deposit toward your future happiness.

So to answer our two questions, posed above…the yard is not more work…it’s an investment in your future happiness. I get it…it’s not clear yet how it can be a soft place to land…don’t worry…I’ll show you how…and ‘no’, it’s not too late in the year to actually go out and dig in your dirt.

Rather Take a Hike?

If you’re already an outdoorsy person, it might be that you’d rather backpack on an extended weekend…or canoe in the boundary waters…or attack a 14-er in the Rockies…but there is no need to wait for the big one. You can enjoy nature a little every day in your own backyard…or your balcony filled with herbs and flowers in containers.

fern undergrowth filling in under tall pines
Tall pines in Portland, Oregon

Like the study linked above, psychologists have also compared the effects of long vacations to shorter but more frequent vacations and have found that the more frequent, and shorter, actually provides more rest.

So frequent 1-hour nature visits…to your own backyard or balcony garden…will serve you well.

But I’m an Extrovert!

Maybe you’re concerned that gardening is too solitary and you’d rather relax with friends. Point taken…Yet our small, backyard activity which I’ll tell you about in a minute…can actually connect you to friends.

We have some Arizona friends who were dividing rhizomes in their yard. Because these plants multiply every season, our friends were overwhelmed with them and hoped we might have some room. They had 6 exotic colors that I had never heard of, and we gladly accepted their overflow. They arrived today…in plenty of time for me to spend quality time in the dirt getting them planted.

I can’t wait to see them bloom and send our friends pictures. More to talk about!

Only 1 hour will do it. I’m talking about planting bulbs, or rhizomes (the long fleshy-style bulb). Pick whatever kind you’d like to dream about all winter: irises, tulips, anemones, crocuses, grape hyacinths, jonquils…what spring awakening will please you the most?

Here’s an early dividend…Your fun doesn’t wait ‘til Spring. It begins with a quick trip to your local garden center. They have plenty of bulbs in bags with full-color photos of the Spring promise on them. Makes choosing really easy, as does the price—super cheap!

1 hour of fun digging in the dirt will be plenty of time to plant 2 bags of bulbs.

Exponential Dividends

Then, in late winter, after a lazy Saturday morning in bed, when you finally commit to getting up…you walk into your kitchen for the first morning cup and look out your back window. A small white and purple surprise peeks through the last bits of snow. What is that? Are they really flowers in the snow?

The crocuses are pushing up…you’ve made it through Winter. Spring has arrived.

All you need to do to get that reward is invest 1 hour of stress-relieving, great-exercise digging. Then, multiply that 1-hour’s time by all the winter dreaming…the reminiscing with your kids about your digging fun…and the sweetest Spring surprise…sharing pictures with friends…and you have your soft place to land. Over and over and over…

Tell me about your plans for your soft place to land. Use the space below.

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