As quoted above, Henry David Thoreau says so much about the caring link between nature and its effects upon us. In previous blogs we we wrote about how connecting with nature can help reduce stress and help us get grounded while helping us promote our happiness. We have recently noticed a green, growing trend of incorporating nature and gardens into city planning. This excites us and we are all for more greenery in our lives!
NYC’s Rain Gardens
New York City has been a leader in ‘going green’ for awhile now. Recently the city has commissioned a major expansion to their official Green Infrastructure Program. This expansion is to include curbside rain gardens in areas like Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens. These uniquely designed gardens will “…absorb millions of gallons of stormwater each time it rains, beautifying neighborhoods, improving the health of our waterways and making the city more resilient in the face of global warming.” (https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/406-19/city-doubles-size-largest-green-infrastructure-program-nation-making-nyc-more-resilient-to) More than 9,000 curbside rain gardens are under construction in New York City! This will help prevent flooding when it rains in addition to reducing the Combined Sewer Overflows that often flow into local NYC waterways in upwards numbers of 500 million gallons per year. This reduced overflow will help protect and improve the health of the local tributaries and that of NY Harbor.
This is a wonderful idea to help bring green spaces to New York City since more than 70% of the city is paved with impervious surfaces. Often water gets absorbed into the ground and dispersed. But this cannot happen very well if the surfaces are paved. This means that impervious surfaces and massive amounts of water tend to create problems with flooding since the water has very few places to go. (Although it would be fun to race popsicle-stick boats down the full gutters along the street, but it becomes a bit more dangerous when the water goes past our ankles!) “More than 70 percent of New York City’s land mass is covered by an impervious surface… Curbside rain gardens help to soften the city’s landscape and allow the stormwater to be naturally absorbed into the ground, therefore reducing flooding that can impact roadways, homes and businesses.” (https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/406-19/city-doubles-size-largest-green-infrastructure-program-nation-making-nyc-more-resilient-to)
There is an additional benefit to these curbside rain gardens. The areas where these gardens are being created have a smaller tree count and often a higher reported rate of young people with asthma. “The increased tree canopy and vegetation created through the addition of the rain gardens will help to improve air quality, provide shade during hot summer months, and beautify the neighborhoods.” (https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/406-19/city-doubles-size-largest-green-infrastructure-program-nation-making-nyc-more-resilient-to) This is fantastic! But we still have one question that is lingering in our minds… What is a ‘curbside rain garden?’
What is a Curbside Rain Garden?
Curbside Rain Gardens are built along the street in city sidewalks to prevent the loss of street parking. Think a planter box set into the ground, only there is no bottom to the box per-say. The curbside rain gardens in New York City will entail a 5 foot deep hole into the ground. This hole is filled with alternating layers of engineered soil and stones. These layers of stones and soil will contain void spaces that will allow storage of stormwater and the subsequent natural drainage of that water. There are curb cuts to allow for water to flow into the garden to naturally water the plants. These curbside gardens are “…engineered in a way that will allow them to manage up to 2,500 gallons each during a storm… [and] designed so that all the stormwater is absorbed in less than 48 hours.” (https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/406-19/city-doubles-size-largest-green-infrastructure-program-nation-making-nyc-more-resilient-to) The addition of well chosen plants and foliage will assist the drainage and add air purifying beauty to the community!
Green Vertical Gardens are a growing trend for cities around the world.
Curbside Rain Gardens are just one way that cities are embracing the use of greenery in their city planning. Another trend that seems to be sprouting up around the world is vertical gardens. A vertical garden is where the plants and flowers are growing in a planter on the wall that often spanse most if not the whole wall space. Engineers and architects have been using this concept to create beautiful and lush cities and neighborhoods.
Most consider the Italian architect Stfano Boeri to be one of the fathers of green high-rises. In 2014 the Bosco Verticale in Milan, Italy won the International Highrise Award. And he is currently working on a “Forest City” in Liuzhou, China near the banks of the Liuyang River. Upon completion in 2020 this 175-hectare city with 300,000 residents will have homes, shops, offices, etc. that echo the hillsides near it to be a lush and green thriving city. “At the same time, this green metropolis will be home to at least 40,000 trees, shrubs, flowers, and hundreds of different plant species, soon becoming a vibrant, wild oasis for insects, bees, and birds.” (https://www.smart-magazine.com/vertical-gardens/) With the prevalent greenery in the city, air quality will increase and the overall noise of the city will be reduced.
Other ways we see vertical gardens is in Mexico City, USA. In Mexico City there are vertical gardens in the forms of pillars along the highways. These “…gardens are an innovative way of beautifying urban spaces, and absorbing CO2, heat, and city noise.” (https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/city-is-converting-highway-pillars-into-vertical-gardens-to-clean-the-air/) The garden’s irrigation system is self-sufficient by collecting rainwater, ensuring that the plants are well maintained. Additionally, the plants that grow on the pillars are chosen for their urban benefit of having low water consumption and high resilience. This process and selection is similar to those in other regions and cities. What is unique in the case of Mexico City is that the materials that make up the planters for the vertical gardens are made entirely out of recycled plastics. This makes this vertical garden sustainable and green in more than one way!
CLICK HERE to check out the short video on Mexico City’s vertical gardens!
We at UCA are happy to see these green trends sprouting up around the world! Whether you are gardening in your backyard or driving down the street, having plants around helps reduce stress, anxiety and promotes productivity. All of these are good things to help us become more successful people that can help fill the world with more caring.
If you would like to read more blogs, Unified Caring Association has more blogs like ‘R’ is for Reforestation, A UCA Member’s Personal Well-Being Journey, and Starting Steps to Self-Care. Or if you would like a dose of caring and cheer in your day? Follow us on Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram!
Unified Caring Association (UCA) has multiple scholarships available during the year to help children with funds for schooling. Each time we read these submissions we are moved and excited, especially when we notice themes in the submissions. Recently we wrote a blog about one theme, empathy. We want to celebrate the other themes these essays touch upon, such as gratitude.
Gratitude is as gratitude does…
Gratitude is a topic we touch on often. Such as our other blogs titled Wired for Gratitude and Caring Through The Gift of Time. In these topics we have compiled and shared information about how acts of gratitude promote self-care and caring for others. Adopting a mindset of gratitude ultimately promotes health and healthy lifestyles while encouraging others to do the same. We are bursting with joy to see that the upcoming generations are taking steps to promote gratitude in their lives and the lives they touch as well.
Nadia Finley-Gratitude -Strength From Challenges
We all have many challenges we face in our lives. How we respond during and after these challenges make a difference. UCA loves to hear when the response is with care, positivity, and gratitude. Nadia wrote a unique essay on how she is grateful for all of the challenges that have made her who she is today. Stronger, empowered, and more grateful for all that happens in her life. She shares her journey with us by speaking with emotion to someone who bullied her, moving through levels of gratitude: “Thank you! Because I realize the discrimination I suffered only made me stronger. Thank you! I learned where there is adversity, there is an opportunity to show unconditional love. Thank you! For not realizing my worth, it forced me to value my own unique beauty, without your approval. Thank you! I own this experience in pain, which in turn is more powerful than living in the illusion where you tried to keep me… Now I am grateful for my challenges.” Thank you for sharing with us Nadia, we are grateful for you, and all you do!
Faith Lovato- Gratitude, A New Perspective
“If I could change one thing in this world to make it a more caring place, I would change the way people view their lives.” This is the topic of Faith’s essay. She remarks about how most people are ‘normally’ “…ungrateful, unsatisfied, undetermined, content and unaware of how blessed they are.” Faith wants to change this and promote a new perspective on life. This is a perspective of gratitude, positivity and realizing that the little things add up. “Focus your attention to the little things in life. Because the little things are what matter in life.” Faith would like for us to stop spending time on what we lack. Exchanging that time for appreciating what we have. She echoes other comments we have read that time spent on technological devices can promote a view of lacking and unappreciation. Spending time with others, sharing your gratitude, and striving for a positive perspective on life makes all of the small things we experience add up to the larger good in our lives.
Allison Jarman- The Little Things Can Make the Biggest Impacts
Remember Faith’s essay mentions how all of the little things in life add up? Allison wrote a moving essay with the focus on “…helping people to see that we change the world by doing small things.” She tells us about her life experiences through her interactions and time spent with a friend who has down syndrome. “It always made me so happy when I would come over. My friend showed her happiness by waiting for me outside and being very grateful. With very minimal effort, I was able to show my friend that I cared and help bring her some happiness.” Allison shares that her friend’s mother too is grateful for the friendship and time spent with her daughter. This makes three direct moments of gratitude and joy. We can picture them spending time together, laughing and playing.
Allison states, “I would like to help others experience the joy and happiness I have experienced through small acts. It does not take giant acts of kindness to make the world a better place, small acts of kindness and love will make it a more caring place.” This is wonderful to read because there is more impact when real actions support our words; a.k.a. actions can speak louder than words. Allison wants to lead by example by teaching “…others that simple things such as checking up on a friend, giving compliments and using patience while driving are all simple acts of service.” In her finishing comments she states that “if we all worked on at least these three areas the world would be a much better place.”
We have been so excited to share themes from our scholarships, that we wanted to take the time to say thank you to all of the applicants. We are filled with joy when we read all of your caring essays. Without a doubt gratitude is a strong way to go forward to help create a more caring world.
Want to read more about UCA and get an extra dose of positivity on you news feeds? Read our other blogs on caring, member benefits, and or follow us on social media: Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram. We are looking forward to sharing more with you!
We have been writing a lot about gratitude in the past month. And we wanted to continue sharing the research we have found on why gratitude is so good for our well-being. Gratitude is universal, spanning across cultures and history. We see many forms of gratitude such as giving gifts, time and status to honor to those around us. To our surprise there was a study in 2012 by the John Templeton Foundation. It concludes “While 90% of respondents consider themselves grateful, only 52 percent of women and 44 percent of the men surveyed express gratitude on a regular basis.” These results are an eye opener to us. Based on the recent research that has been published gratitude is a key to success. Gratitude is a foundation for many other areas of our well-being.
Positive Mind Makes for a Positive Body
When we embody gratitude we feel better and more energetic. This means that we are more likely to go out for hikes or other physical activities. We also are more likely to interact with those we love and be present throughout the day. Geoffery James comments on this in his article, Neuroscience Says Your Body and Mind Get Stronger When You Focus on This 1 Thing, “According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people who keep gratitude journals ‘reported fewer health complaints, more time exercising, and fewer symptoms of physical illness.’” (https://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/neuroscience-says-your-body-mind-get-stronger-when-you-focus-on-this-one-thingdraft-1562273865.html?fbclid=IwAR0Q-D4cLzOmSlgYxtJTDBzl-u1s1bDStlmgOZIpJ1lnnoqgGSoQ3FHGGsQ) With this increase activity we see healthier and better sleep patterns, and reduced stress levels in those who practice more gratitude. According to a study published by National Center for Biotechnology Information“cultivating appreciation and other positive emotions showed lower levels of stress hormones [specifically] a 23 percent reduction in cortisol and 100 percent increase in DHEA/DHEAS levels.” (https://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/neuroscience-says-your-body-mind-get-stronger-when-you-focus-on-this-one-thingdraft-1562273865.html?fbclid=IwAR0Q-D4cLzOmSlgYxtJTDBzl-u1s1bDStlmgOZIpJ1lnnoqgGSoQ3FHGGsQ) Both of these allow for a better mental capacity for handling the day and all of its challenges, as well as being key components to help heal the brain.
While we are on the subject of healthy bodies, it is important to note that having more gratitude leads to a healthier and stronger heart. Some of this can be from the increase in exercise and reduced stress levels we mention above. “A 2015 study by the American Psychological Association found that patients who kept gratitude journals for eight weeks showed reductions in levels of several inflammatory biomarkers while they wrote.” (https://www.whartonhealthcare.org/discovering_the_health)
A part of a healthy body is a healthy mind. In her article, Discovering the Health and Wellness Benefits of Gratitude, Linda Roszak Burton mentions three studies on how gratitude helps keep the mind healthy and promotes overall well-being. “A 2006 study published in Behaviour Research and Therapy found Vietnam War veterans with high levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder…Stats Show Improved Mental Health – Recently published, the Journal of Research in Personality examined gratitude and grit to confer resiliency to suicide by increasing meaning in life…Emotional Well-Being – A 2007 study published in the Journal of Research in Personality found the relationship between gratitude and well-being leads to lower stress and depression and higher levels of social support.” (https://www.whartonhealthcare.org/discovering_the_health)
Gratitude and the Effects on Health at Work
One aspect of life that greatly affects gratitude and acts of gratitude is work. We can see that a leader who expresses how grateful they are will yield more productive output with happier employees. A study reported by Harvard Medical School and done by researchers at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania found that “employees who were thanked by their managers made 50% more fund-raising calls than their counterparts who hadn’t heard the same token of appreciation.” We can be apply this to other industries. Just think of how wonderful the world would be in we heard more thank yous at work! This increase in productivity accompanies the idea that gratitude and appreciation creates feelings of being valued. Often when we feel valued we are in productive, healthy relationships. We also tend to have high job satisfaction, and motivation to do our best, working towards achieving the company’s goals.
Our Bodies are Wired to be at Their Best When We Are Grateful
If we pull this all together we can see that our bodies and minds are at their best when we are maintaining gratitude throughout the day. We see an increase in healing in the mind and body. This in turn creates more energy and a drive for interaction with others. All of this leads to an increase in productivity with success shared by all. As the quote from Cicero states, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.” We have access to a strong foundation of gratitude within ourselves. It is from this which all other aspects of our lives grow and thrive.
Read more UCA articles on gratitude, self-care, and well-being on our other blogs. Some examples are: Caring Through the Gift of Time, and Starting Steps to Self-Care. Thank you for reading our blog, and for being a part of a caring community!
At Unified Caring Association we value caring acts that help improve the world, but what does the word CARING mean? We find that everyone has a slightly different definition of this word. We took the time to consolidate some of the answers we have heard and have them listed below that helps us convey how there can be more caring in the world.
C: Communication – in relationships, parenting, workplace, community
A: Actions – caring is a verb – action spreads caring in the world, like UCA’s caring challenge, caring family activities, care for planet, care for each other and self-care.
R: Respect – our planet, air, trees, water, animals and other’s life stories
I: Integrity – shared stories of caring heroes, truth and being authentic with our word
N: Nurturing – how to nurture the growth of caring in the world – caring encouragement and inspiration
G: Giving – tips on how to provide love, empathy, emotional support and caring to the world
There are so many other ways that we have heard to share caring in the world. It is our belief that the more caring there is in the world, the better place it will be for us all. And we need to spread caring more than ever! We love sharing the caring in our blogs like, It All Starts With Self-Care and Caring Challenge Recap. Or get a daily dose of caring on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and/or Tumblr.
Our intentions shape our reality. When we hold the intention of caring in our hearts we propel our lives away from apathy and toward caring connections. What we think, anticipate, hope or fear about an experience can feed it’s outcome. Tempering our attachment to a certain outcome and mindfully processing any concerns can open our minds and widen our range of experience and possibility. We infuse our energy into every outcome that we imagine, imprinting our energy into the experience. If we wish to experience greater happiness, we must infuse with caring!