My daughter has been saving her money lately, but this week she spontaneously bought a pansy. Apparently, she did some research and determined that her room could provide the ideal conditions to support the plant’s growth and development as it lives out its short life. She named her pansy Daphne, and lovingly repotted her in soil purchased precisely to her needs. She has placed her carefully on her windowsill, with special consideration given to the time of day and the intensity of light. She has her window open to provide an ideal temperature and is closely monitoring water levels. And yes, she talks to Daphne and breathes on her from time to time.
There has been some anxiety about how things were going for Daphne, especially after my daughter trimmed away her faded flowers. And then it happened. Daphne sprouted a fresh new beautiful flower and several promising buds! Not that my daughter would have loved Daphne any less if not for her accomplishments, but to know that she is reaching her potential and is being the flower she is meant to be is so special.
It is so fitting that Daphne has arrived home during this first week of Spring. I know for myself, I have felt particularly antsy, almost bursting to get up and move. Even as I wrote this, I was compelled to take a stroll down Davis Street. The sunny clear sky and the promise of warmer temperatures bring such hope and a sense of optimism, calling me to explore, to experience life, and to flourish.
Just as with Daphne, life is bursting forth during this season to remind us all to go toward what nourishes us. Science tells us that exposure to sunlight can improve mood, in part due to increased rates of serotonin produced in the brain. More than that, light exposure and exercise or movement occurring together has been considered an alternative treatment for depression, specifically related to cravings for carbohydrates, weight management, social engagement, appetite control, need for sleep, and energy levels. Altogether, increased outdoor activity during daylight hours has been associated with improved mood, self-esteem, happiness, and overall wellbeing.
As described by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wellbeing is considered an “integration of mental health and physical health”, redefining health overall as “more than the absence of disease”. “It is a resource that allows people to realize their aspirations, satisfy their needs and to cope with the environment in order to live a long, productive, and fruitful life. In this sense, health enables social, economic and personal development fundamental to well-being”. This is the difference between surviving and thriving.
To my mind, thriving is an approach goal, while surviving is an avoidance goal or mindset. Rather than being motivated by what you want, you may be most driven by what you fear or what you can avoid. This can include the avoidance of pain (physically and/or emotionally), loss, resistance or “hassles”, accountability or blame… the list goes on and on. We all have something we hope to minimize in our lives, but such a defensive or fear-based approach to life is for so many an obstacle to happiness and wellbeing.
Daphne does not fear being the flower she was meant to be. She is a reminder to us all that central to realizing our potential is plenty of sunlight, nutrient-rich food, and a stable, nurturing environment. But most of all, there must be a willingness to cut away or prune what has faded and is no longer serving us in order to allow for new growth, while in relationship with others who appreciate our beauty and are happy to see us grow and flourish.