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Drop-In Life Skills Workshop and Mental Health

On a mild day in April, a group of youth gathered in the Education Room at CHV for a drop-in, life skills workshop on plants and planters. The session was led by Desiree, Life Skills Coordinator at CHV, who became quite interested in plants during the pandemic. Being as it was a drop-in session, youth could join or leave whenever they liked.

As you entered the room, you were filled with a sense of calm thanks to the tranquil music and image of a floral balcony that emanated from a large screen. In the centre of the room was a large table with a variety of craft supplies on it. Surrounding the table were chairs for the youth. This was to be the planter creation space. On one side table, a variety of plants were awaiting their newly decorated planters for a permanent home. On another table sat the potting supplies.

Drop-in sessions are not life skills specific, as opposed to those, like budgeting workshops, that focus on a specific topic. Drop-in sessions are designed as a way for youth to get together, have some social time, focus on something enjoyable, strengthen their peer-to-peer connections, all while having casual conversations about various topics. In this particular session, Desiree helped youth make the connection between caring for a plant and self-care. For example, when watering a plant, youth might think about the fact that they may need to hydrate.

During casual conversation, someone might mention that they are having trouble with something like saving money, and Desiree can casually bring up that there’s a budgeting session that the youth can sign up for. It is also a great way for the youth to meet Desiree for the first time, so that when there is a structured workshop, there’s already a sense of familiarity.

When choosing a plant, the youth had a variety to choose from, which helped them decide the size of the planter that they would need, before they started. Different plants required different care, so youth could decide which plant would work best for them. One youth chose a plant that was not doing very well. Their goal was to revive it and give it a new lease on life.

As they decorated their planters, youth chatted about a variety of topics. When a youth would compliment another’s work it often led to youth sharing a variety of decorating techniques. Many of the youth were going to take their plants back to their rooms to add to their spaces. Desiree introduced the group to an app called “Picture This” which youth could use to not only identify their plant, but learn how to take care of it.

Mental Health Benefits

The drop-in format of this life skills workshop not only made is very accessible, but it also came with many mental health benefits:

  • The music and imagery provided a very calming space for youth
  • The creative endeavour of decorating the planters required both sides of the brain to work together, which strengthens neural connections
  • The casual nature of this workshop provides the opportunity to strengthen peer-to-peer connections and support
  • It facilitated discussions on self-care

In addition, interacting with plants comes with its own physical and mental health benefits:

  • Plants boost air quality and decrease the risk of illness by removing toxins, dust, and other particulates from the air
  • Plants can improve moods—people feel calmer, more relaxed, and more positive in rooms that have plants
  • Plants can relieve stress and anxiety simply by looking at them and taking in their aroma
  • Caring for your plant can help prolong your attention span
  • Interacting with plants can boost your self-esteem—low self-esteem is common in young people as social media provides so many ways for young people to compare themselves to others. Taking care of plants shows youth that they can be nurturers, it provides a technology break and strengthens their connections to nature, and by nurturing a plant, youth can gain a sense of pride for their accomplishments

If you haven’t already, try to get out and experience nature, now that the warmer weather is here. You may notice that you come away with a sense of calm and happiness. The next time you go shopping, pick up a plant for yourself, or perhaps a friend, and bring some happiness indoors.