Green Thumbs Up! Benefits of Gardening

beginning of my garden

The Beginnings of my Garden

So, I was getting my weekly fix of “Orange is the New Black” and I got some interesting information: Gardening is good for your mental health! I thought to myself, “see you can learn something from drama tv…lol!”, but I will save that discussion for another post. I know you may be thinking, “ok, what is the connection between gardening and mental health, and why should I use my valuable time to keep reading?”


Well, I just recently started a garden at the local community center and I am so in love with it! I never thought I would actually love getting my hands dirty, but it is one of the best feelings in the world to have your hands immersed in soil and compost and to actually to see the fruits of your labor.  I was inspired to start the garden as part of my healing journey –I want to know EVERYTHING I am putting on and in my body! So what better way to know then to grow your own food and herbs. Starting a garden has been on my bucket list for years.  So, when I found out that the community center  was starting a community garden I was all on board!


Just to give you a little history about my mental health: I suffer from depression, anxiety and emotional trauma. I had a wonderful childhood, horrible adolescence and been spending most of my twenties figuring out this enigma called my life. I have been dealing with the pain that I repressed during my adolescence all through my twenties. I believe my depression really started to manifest when I was in college, but it became a problem when I was pregnant with my first son. In high school, I started writing poetry to release my pain; In college, I made myself really really really busy to avoid my life woes; when I was pregnant with my son I had no choice but to deal with my raging emotions.  I do not believe in taking prescriptions for something I know I can heal holistically and naturally, so I have been learning so much about the organic way. Who would have known that my interest in gardening would turn into a cure for my depression? Reflecting on how I feel when I’m gardening,  I do feel more relaxed and have a greater sense of purpose.  I was so ecstatic when my first seedlings peeked their way through the soil. Now, everyday I look forward to spending at least an hour in the garden.


Studies actually show that gardening can improve your mental and physical health! Here are a few of those findings:

  • Mycobacterium Vaccae, which is a harmless bacteria commonly found in soil, has shown to  increase the release and metabolism of serotonin in parts of the brain that control cognitive function and mood — much like serotonin-boosting antidepressant drugs do (CNN).
  • Being in natural places fosters recovery from mental fatigue, improves outlook and life satisfaction, helps us to cope with and recover from stress, improves our ability to recover from illness and injury, restores concentration, and improves productivity (Gardening Matters).
  • Simply viewing plants has been shown to reduce fear, anger, blood pressure, and muscle tension (Gardening Matters).
  • Gardens require physical exertion, provide relief from stress and engender creativity, participation with nature and a sense of stewardship for the land. Individuals reap direct benefits from the physical activity involved in gardening and having access to fresh, cheap produce on a daily basis (Designing Healthy Communities).
  • Psychologically there is satisfaction that comes from the joy of a successful harvest (Designing Healthy Communities).
  •  Gardeners report decreased stress as well as “the feeling of a spiritual connection with ‘Mother Earth’ ” (Designing Healthy Communities).


The presence of community gardens also have a positive impact on the community:

  • SOCIAL CAPITAL: In addition to the physical and psychological health benefits outlined above, the community gardens are seen as a social, caring place contributing to a greater sense of belonging and a catalyst for friendship formation (Designing Health Communities).
  • ECONOMY: Gardening can help the local food markets, which may become a necessity due to the escalating fuel costs and the need for greater nutrition. Get into your backyard and develop a greater consciousness of the world in which we live (How stuff works).
  • CRIME PREVENTION: Scientific studies show that crime decreases in neighborhoods as the amount of green space increases, and that vegetation has been seen to alleviate mental fatigue, one of the precursors to violent behavior (Gardening Matters).
  • ENVIRONMENTAL: Environmental benefits of community gardens include increasing pervious surfaces and allowing for groundwater recharge, improving air quality through the addition of plants to the landscape, beautifying the environment and promoting sustainability (Together for Health).


So, what are you waiting for, go start your garden (or whatever you been wanting to start and putting it off). You can even start small with just one house plant and watch your garden grow!

Meet Fertility_My Flourishing Garden

Meet Fertility_My Flourishing Garden (43 days old)

Baby Cucumber! Life in my Hands

Baby Cucumber! Life in my Hands

Baby Watermelon_Pure Fruition

Baby Watermelon_Pure Fruition


References/Additional Information

Designing Health Communities:



How Stuff Works:

Together 4 Health:

Gardening Matters:

Health Benefits of Urban Agriculture::

Don’t Be S.A.D this Winter…Beat the Winter Blues

Don’t Be S.A.D this Winter…winter-blues-300x186

It’s that time of the year again, where the weather is changing, it’s colder and the sun in shinning less frequently. For some the weather is not the only thing that is changing during this time of the year, some people also experience a dramatic change in their mood. If you notice that you feel sadness, depression, lethargy and a loss in interest in fun activities during a particular time of the year, every year, you may be dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder aka SAD aka “Winter Blues”. According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes based on the seasons.  It is very common in the United States, there are more than 3 million occurrences per year.  The specific causes of SAD is unknown but some factors that may come into play include:

  • Biological clock/Circadian Rhythm– The reduced level of sunlight in the fall and winter may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
  • Serotonin levels– a drop in serotonin (a brain chemical/neurotransmitter that affects mood) can happen when there is a drop in sunlight exposure.
  • Melatonin levels– the change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a vital role in sleep patterns and mood.
  • Sex/Gender– SAD is diagnosed more often in women than in men, but men may have more severe symptoms.
  • Age– young people have a higher risk of SAD and it occurs less likely in older adults.
  • Family history– SAD or another form of depression may run in families.
  • Environment– living farther from the equator or in places with less sunlight can contribute to the onset of SAD.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder usually begin October or November and subside in March or April.  Majority of SAD occurs in the Winter months when there is less light, but there are also occurrences of Summer SAD, which has some different symptoms. Here are some of the symptoms of SAD. Please review this list and check those that apply to you.

  • Notice of a change in mood during a certain time of the year
  • Feeling Depressed most of the day, nearly everyday
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Having low energy
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having problems sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Here is a brief comparison of the differences in symptoms between Fall/Winter & Spring/Summer SAD:

Fall/Winter SAD

Spring/Summer SAD



Tiredness or low energy

Problems getting along with other people

Hypersensitivity to rejection


Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates

Weight gain

Trouble Sleeping (insomnia)

Weight Loss

Poor appetite




It’s normal to have some days when you feel down, but if you check more than 3 symptoms and experience them for more than 2 weeks, then you may be dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Don’t be afraid or get overwhelmed, there is help. Below are some options for you to develop a treatment plan and take control of your SAD.

1. See your doctor (either you PCP or mental health specialist)- the doctor can test your hormone levels and run other test to check to see if your issue is more serious. Here are some questions you can ask your doctor:

    • What treatment is best for me?
    • What changes can I make at home to help myself?
    • Should/How can I make any changes to my diet?

2. Cognitive Behavioral/Talk therapy (CBT)– CBT has shown to be effective on the immediate and long-term effects of SAD. CBT focuses on helping the client to develop skills to improve coping with seasonal changes and moods. The therapist works with the patient to foster behavioral (doing) skills and cognitive (thinking) skills, which help to be proactive before the onset of SAD.

3. Alternative medicine/supplements (always consult a physician/herbalist/naturopath before moving forward with these remedies because some may not be appropriate for your individual situation (i.e. if you are taking medication, pregnant/breastfeeding, or have any other medical issues). 

  • Vitamin D3- one of the causes of SAD may be a lack of Vitamin D3, which is produced in the skin in response to sunlight. Taking 2000IU of Vitamin D3 daily can make significant improvements in seasonal depression.
  • B-complex vitamins (B2, B6, B12 & folic acid)- vitamin B complex deficiencies can lead to mood disorders and depression and if you are not getting adequate amount of B vitamins from your diet, a B-complex supplement will help. The best way to get these vitamins is through foods like fish, beans, dark green leafy vegetables, and fortified cereals, but if you can’t get an adequate amount of these food then a supplement is recommended.
  • Omega-3 fatty acid (fish oil)– a supplement that is plentiful in fish oils not only reduce the risk of heart attacks and ease the pain of arthritis, it is also shown to help with mood swings.
  • 5-HTP- an amino acid that works in the brain and central nervous system by increasing the production of the chemical serotonin. Numerous studies have shown that 5-HTP to be as or more effective than many prescription antidepressants. (this should not be taken in conjunction with a SSRI drug)
  • Lemon Balm- an herb that has a positive effect on the brain, helping to ease sadness and depression, calm mania and hysteria, enhance sleep and aid memory and concentration.
  • Eleuthero (Siberian ginseng)- an adaptogenic herb that helps to balance the body and support energy. It helps the body cope better with stress; it also increases stamina and endurance and stimulates the brain to improve concentration.
  • St. John’s wort– a herb that aids in alleviating depression, anxiety, tiredness, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping.
  • SAMe-is a chemical that is found naturally in the body and can also be made in the laboratory; it can be beneficial in helping with alleviating the symptoms of depression, anxiety, PMS, Osteoarthritis and other conditions. 
  • Melatonin– a natural hormone made by the body’s pineal gland; it regulates your sleep patterns by sending signals to your body to sleep. You can take Melatonin, if your body is not producing enough and you are suffering from insomnia, it will help you sleep.

4. Mind/body therapies– acupuncture, yoga, meditation, guided imagery, massage therapy

5. Light Therapy– According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the most widely used treatment for SAD is light therapy, which is daily exposure to bright artificial light. Though light therapy devices are readily available for purchase without a prescription, it is advised to participate in the process under the supervision of your doctor/mental health provider.

6. Lifestyle Changes– changing what you eat and incorporating exercise into your daily routine can have a significant impact on your mood. Eating meals with lots of natural fruits and vegetables and healthy proteins and fats helps your body function properly. Also, walking or even doing 10-30 minute mild exercise like yoga, cardio, dancing, cleaning, etc can help your body detox, metabolize and produce feel good hormones.

7. Surround yourself with good energy– when you feel the SAD symptoms coming on, be proactive and surround yourself by the family members and friends that make you laugh. When you start feeling SAD you may want to be alone, challenge yourself to do the opposite by being social. 

In light of all the information above, if you or someone you know has SAD please be proactive in creating a treatment plan that caters to your needs. My hope is that this article reaches and helps someone who either is suffering from SAD or knows someone who might be. Mental Health is vital, and too often people dismiss it because they see it as not important or that having a mental disorder/illness/issue as a weakness. We have to change how we think about mental health and start being more proactive to alleviate the plague of mental disorders in our community. Seeking help is not a weakness, it shows strength and that you care about yourself! So, love yourself enough to heal yourself!


From Victim to Victor

image“I hate my mother! I hate my biological father! I hate all those who have wronged me! I hate the world! I hate GOD! I hate myself!  Why Me?”

For years the statements above were my life story. It is what I told myself over and over again and only created more anger, resentment and rage inside of me. I was a victim to my own self sabotage, holding myself captive, pleading to anyone who would listen to save me. At first, I thought I was asking for saving from my horrible parents and life, but in retrospect I know now I needed saving from myself. I understand now that though what my parents did, others did and what happened to me was wrong, I was not letting go and I was allowing myself to constantly be hurt by the past. I kept pulling off the bandages and scabs and not allowing my wounds to heal.

Now, my wounds are healing are yes some may leave ugly scars but I am learning now to accept them. They are a part of my story but in a more positive way. They are the reason why I am who I am and why I am so passionate about my purpose and vision.  I know why the caged bird sings…because it longs to be free/because nobody can take singing away from it/ because it does it so well. When I hear stories of resilience and perseverance like Maya Angelo, Oprah and Angela Davis just to name a few, I am so inspired! These woman turned their hate, hurt, wounds, scars into passion. They inspire me to do the same. I turned my hate, hurt, wounds and scars into something positive—I want to motivate and inspire others to find passion in their pain. I want to help others persevere and strengthen their resilient bones and overcome their obstacles and fears and pursue their passions and dreams.

This is what Serenity Reigns is all about, its not just a blog or natural health products, it’s a movement! A movement to inspire all who want to join this journey to move from being victims into Victors!

Are you down with the movement? Share your Victim or Victor story! Even if you have not reached a full victory yet share your healing journey! It is therapeutic, cathartic and and healing for you and others!



Medicine VS Natural

Medication vs Natural

So, this is the enigma I have been wrestling with, should I take prescription medicine for my battle with depression and anxiety or shall I forgo the induced numb state and continue to deal with my ailments the holistic natural way. Of course, I prefer to do the latter but lately, I feel the depression and anxiety is taking over, it has gotten worse due to many factors. Factors such as being a Stay-at-home-mom, transitioning to becoming a working mom, being a mom of 3, trying to be a good mom, not being sure of myself, my relationship with my partner, deciding to put school on hold again, my unhealthy relationship with my parents and siblings, lack of family support, my PTSD, the remnants of growing up in a dysfunctional household, being raised by a narcissistic mother and being abandoned by my biological father.

I wake up almost every morning with anxiety manifested mentally by racing thoughts and physically by butterflies in my stomach. And I battle with bouts of depression throughout the day. I take vitamins, do my affirmations, readings, yoga, prayer and meditation, which all work when I’m consistent, but it’s challenging to be consistent when life is so stressful and overwhelming. I understand that my anxiety and depression is at it’s climax because of the grieving process I’m going though and I am finally deciding to stop living in the fog. This journey is not really supported by those who continue to live in the fog, which once you try to escape it, you realize how many people in your life and around you actually live in the fog.

Sometimes it feels as it will just be easier to just pop some pills and live in the fog, ignorance is bliss right? WRONG, living in blissful ignorance is a temporary, and it’s just a façade. No one lives blissfully in ignorance. The older you get the more you have to do in order to avoid reality and maintain that pseudo-blissful state. You either have to medicate, distract yourself with addictions and/or build up a host of defense mechanism (the main one is denial), in order to placate this form of bliss. So, is it really Bliss?

Taking prescription meds may create some immediate temporary relief from my ailments, but ultimately, it’s like putting a Band-Aid over a deep open wound and broken bone. Prescription meds provide temporary relief to the symptoms of depression and anxiety, but doesn’t cure it. The only way to truly cure depression and anxiety is to deal with the root cause. The Healing process can be long, painful and arduous, but it’s worth it. It takes patience and persistence, life skills that are not really taught and nurtured in a fast-paced microwave effect society. In order to truly heal, we have to learn how to tolerate emotional pain without trying to medicate it away. We have to take it “One day at a Time”.

Yesterday I was thinking about talking to my doctor about prescribing medicine but today I’m choosing to continue  my healing journey the natural way. I truly want to heal and to help others heal!

*Side Note: I don’t judge anyone who prefers to use medicine. And I’m open to having a conversation with both those who choose to take medication and those who don’t. Another part of the healing process is talking about it, so we don’t feel isolated and alone. Having Depression and Anxiety or any other mental illnesses is not our fault and we shouldn’t have to deal with it in isolation.

Update to this post originally published on 9/21/16 @ 12:11pm. Its now 4/18/19, almost 3 years later and I have some new insight because my depression got to the point where I was struggling to get up every morning and I was losing interest in connecting with my children and I knew something had to give. So, I decided to talk to my therapist about talking medications temporarily until I get out of this funk. She reassured me that she understood my many reasons for not wanting to take medication and she supports me in whatever decision I choose. She suggested that I talk to my PCP more about what type of medication would be suitable for me and that I do my own research and take ownership of my health. So, I talked cried to my doctor and told her why I think I needed medication and all my fears surrounding taking medication. I feared that I would… get addicted…be considered a sell out to the naturopathic community…be judged…not be myself…and the idea of putting a foreign manufactured substance in my body frightened me most of all! She listened and I felt heard. She told me that its ok, and I am doing the right thing for me right now and the fact that I have those concerns, she feels confident that I would be able to stop using the medication whenever I felt necessary. She prescribed me the SSRI antidepressant Sertraline which is an less expensive version of Zoloft (I will talk more about different types of medications in another post). She told me that it will take up to 4-6 weeks to be effective, that it is not addictive and I may have some mild side effects like dry mouth, diarrhea and vomiting (which is another one of my fears!!!). She also reiterated that I can stop using it whenever I feel ready. I took the script, filled the script and looked at the bottle of pills for 3 days before I decided to take my first dose. 

I decided to only take the medication for 6 months: 3 of those months with the full dose (which was actually half of a pill for me), then the other 3 months, I started to feel better and more in control of my emotions and started to wean myself off to just half a pill every other day, to eventually nothing at all. At first I was totally against medication for myself, but it did help me get out of that dark place and refocus on the things that were important. I will reiterate that it only temporarily placated the surface symptoms by making me feel calmer aka high, so I would still have racing thoughts but the thoughts didn’t bother me and I was able to smile and laugh more because stuff didn’t bother me. The downside were the side effects, the dry mouth and diarrhea were a little annoying but tolerable, and subsided for the most part when I decrease my dosage. Honestly, on the upside the dry mouth forced me to drink more water and the diarrhea helped me to get rid of toxins in my body, so though it was very annoying, it was also helping me in a since. In the first week, I was talking a 25mg dose, which was the lowest dosage, but I felt too high, so I sought advice and I was advised to cut my pills in half, and once I did that I was a tolerable high, my mouth wasn’t as dry and the diarrhea wasn’t as bad either. At the end of those 6 months I was proud of myself to be able to wean myself off the medication. I keep a bottle of the medication to remind me of my journey and my strength and my ability to take control of my health!!!

In conclusion, I would say, if you are battling with depression, anxiety or any type of mental health issue, seek help. Mental health is just as important as physical health!!! It’s ok to get help and find help that truly supports your healing journey, if you feel forced to do something you don’t want to do then maybe that’s not the right journey for you. But, you also have to have discernment, you have to know how to decipher between something that may not feel comfortable but may be in your best interest, like you may not want to be admitted to a hospital for treatment, but if you are causing or contemplating harm to yourself or others then you need the extra support trained professionals are equipped to give. Most importantly, don’t let the mental illness define you, you are not the mental illness, and the mental illness is not all you are…you are someone struggling with, dealing with, and/or managing an illness that should be taken as serious as cancer and treated with the same respect, support and empathy as someone with cancer! Mental illness may not be seen, but it’s real. As someone who both deals with mental illness and helps other deal with their mental illness, I know how real it is. (I will talk more about this in another post)!