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Have you ever noticed how some people seem to smile a lot? How does this make you feel? Perhaps you are envious or maybe you think they are foolish. You might not even have noticed that there's a whole heap of people out there who look happy most of the time. Are you one of them?
Smile lesson number 1: Paste it on!
Did you know that pasting a smile on your face can actually make you feel better?
Pyschologists call this the "facial feedback hypothesis". Studies have shown that our facial expressions directly affect our emotional experiences and vice versa. What makes this study even more interesting, is that our brains can't actually tell the difference between a genuine smile or a manufactured one! So, if you smile for most of the day (even if it's not genuine at first) you will no doubt start to feel happier!
Smiling helps reduce stress-induced hormones in the bloodstream helping us naturally calm down and re-center. So next time you're feeling abit blue, paste on a smile! Not only will you start to feel better but others around you will feel happier as they won't be able to resist the temptation of smiling too!
Try it out for yourself:
Next time you're infront of the mirror, try smiling at yourself for 10 seconds (just make sure nobody's watching as you might earn yourself a rather crazy label!)
Smile lesson number 2: Green things:
Scientists have discovered that plants can make you happy, and tending to plants isn't considered to be bonkers at all! Once you start to look into the reasons why plants are good for the mind, body and soul, the whole psychology of plants begins to make sense.
This sweet smile, combined with the tree and natural surroundings, is almost guaranteed to make the wearer of the smile feel good!
How can plants help health?
There's no doubt that growing your own has far more benefits than merely food provision. Growing and tending plants is a pastime that has been shown to make people happy. Indeed, the days when allotments were inhabited only by men aged 65+ are long gone. Allotmenteering is trendy (but the word trendy is probably not).
Smile lesson number 3: The social aspect:
People obsessed with growing things are all over the place like flies. You don't need to look very hard to find folk with compost under their fingernails. The activity of gardening is now recognised as not only providing a useful energy-outlet to burn calories, increase endorphins and raise the spirits but a great social outlet too.
Smile lesson number 4: Activity:
Young and middle-aged people who have been used to attending the gym are finding that gardening is just as good, if not better than spinning, kick boxing and working with weights. Why? Because it's a real activity where there is structure and meaning. You get to meet like-minded people who are always keen to share ideas and at the end of the growing cycle you have the immense satisfaction of eating some healthy and delicious produce. What's more, you can share surplus with friends and neighbours and it's a great way to make people smile and to promote a community spirit.
Smile lesson number 5: nurture and nature:
The benefits of plants are numerous and various studies over the years have unearthed similar results. Both mental and physical health is determined by the environment surrounding an individual. Concrete, isolation and lack of stimulation is not conducive to raising any sort of smile. Even indoor gardening is hugely beneficial to those living in urban areas. Flat and city dwellers are said to experience a much higher risk of mental health issues such as depression when compared with country-dwellers. Tending to plants helps to bring people out of their isolation.
Smile lesson number 6: keep illness at bay:
Plants have been shown to aid the healing process due to their soothing effects; they contribute to a feeling of wellbeing, they can help reduce headaches by cleaning the air and raising humidity levels; they help to reduce blood pressure; increase motivation and purpose (it's all about a sense of achievement); increase energy and therefore performance levels; they even help to increase compassion and therefore improve relationships. Surely there must be a down-side, for heavens sake?
August in the vegetable garden
It seems there are no disadvantages to engaging with plants! Particularly during August when delightful produce is there for the taking. There are apples and apricots ripening on the trees; blackberries in the hedgerows; beetroot, broccoli, carrots, cabbages, cauliflowers, courgettes, garlic, leeks, onions, potatoes, sweetcorn, sweet potatoes and more to gather. Those with a vegetable and fruit garden have so much food that they hardly know what to do with it. There's so much to harvest that summer parties need to be put on hold for a while.
The quirky bits
About parties: this is one aspect of social life that might suffer, should you decide to become a grow your own addict. Why? Because allotmenteers tend to be rather obsessive and rarely notice the vacant expression that creeps over the faces of those ensnared in conversation.
More endearing attributes shared by growers:
- These unique people seem to turn into Wombles as their pockets are generally bulging with useful pieces of string, wire and tools. They also display an unhealthy obsession about the contents of other people's skips.
- Most are more allotment-proud than they are house-proud, so visitors would be wise to don their oldest clothes before a visit. Tea in tiaras just isn't the ticket.
- Make do and mend becomes a mantra. Gone are the days of perfect alignment or gleaming equipment.
- Repetition rules! The menu might involve cauliflowers, beans and potatoes for weeks on end. Cookbooks suggesting alternative ways to cook a carrot make an excellent gift for a growing-geek.
- Allotmenteers wear a smile. This can be very annoying for people who are filled with gloomy thoughts.