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Landscape as a Loneliness Cure

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

I recently became aware of the Surgeon General's report on loneliness and how lack of social connection has become a serious problem for many Americans, and people all over the world.

Having spent the majority of the pandemic visiting wonderful people and creating beautiful landscapes for their homes, it was a bit of a shock to realize what an opposite experience so many others had.

I count myself lucky to have taken the jump in 2019 from a long career in education to studying landscape design. When my husband was disabled (due to a pre-existing lung condition) after catching the Delta variant of COVID in June of 2020, I was able to quickly get a job doing outside sales for a landscape company. I much preferred this to being teaching online on Zoom all day!

I drove 200+ miles, measured yards by hand, and pitched clients at 2-3 homes

each day, often in searing heat with a mask on. I learned the hard way to go directly to Target or Home Depot stores to use the facilities. Sometimes I treated myself to a good lunch at a sit-down restaurant instead of eating my packed lunch in my car (but always stopped at a nice park or scenic neighborhood). I was scared, stressed, still recovering from long haul COVID effects, and pushed to my limit.

But one thing I wasn't....I wasn't lonely.

I was outside, talking to people, sharing stories, hearing about their

experiences. Almost everyone I came into contact with was kind, and happy to have the chance to connect.

I remember one time, when I was rushing to a job interview with a new company, but my last client had taken longer than I expected. I stopped in at a Starbucks to pick up a quick meal and drink before I drove to the job interview. It was around 2-3pm, and the Starbucks was packed.

I asked the barista how long it would take, explaining that I had barely enough time to make it to the job interview but was starving and didn't think I could make it without food. They couldn't put me at the front of the line, but as soon as my order was ready, the baristas passed it along quickly to me saying, "Hurry, hurry!" And they all cheered "Good luck!!" as I left. (I got the job).

I could share so many stories of people's kindness and connection that brought me to tears at a time when I suddenly found myself the family breadwinner and the doctors were saying my husband would never recover. (He did).

Loneliness is a huge problem, it's apparent anytime you go online. But where you won't see it as clearly is OUTSIDE. In-person, outside, offline. So go outside. Take your computer outside, if you must. You don't need the extra monitor. You don't need your standing desk. You need fresh air, sunshine, and people. You need more reasons to smile, and less reasons scroll mindlessly through Internet content that takes away more from you than it could ever give. (I'm definitely guilty of this!)

This article is in response to the recent Surgeon General's report that loneliness is a rising problem in the US (and the world) today. It's really informative and I recommend that you check it out yourself at:

Side note: You may want to take a daily allergen medication first. Unfortunately, our air quality isn't the greatest lately. However, get out here and breathe it now - because it's not too crazy to imagine that in the near future, we will need masks and quarantining because the air is not safe to breathe. I can tell you from the horticulture perspective, the plants and trees are pumping out unprecedented amounts of pollen in reaction to the extreme weather shifts. With the pre-existing industrial air pollution (we're inhaling plastic and chemicals) and worsening wildfires, any day with air safe enough to breathe is a good day to get out there and enjoy it!

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