Fresh Habits

The secret to improving the quality of your life is simple, inexpensive, and highly effective. It can improve your health, your home, and your social standing.

Go to pretty much any grocery store – it doesn’t have to be high end, Walmart and Target grocery departments are fine. Get yourself a bag of lemons. They are about $1/pound. REAL lemons, not plastic ones.  Now look for a potted herb. It really doesn’t matter what kind. They should be under $10. I recommend Rosemary and Thyme because they are practically indestructible. Basil is great too but requires daily watering (this is not a bad thing as I will elaborate on momentarily).

When you get home the lemons DO NOT hide in your refrigerator and do NOT hide in a cabinet. Your lemons will be prominently displayed in some form of attractive vessel in full view of your living quarters. First let’s clarify what qualifies as an attractive vessel – this is anything that is nice to look at and won’t be damaged by holding some fresh lemons. It could be a clear glass bowl. It could be a plain white or black bowl. Metal is a good choice, as is wood. I advise against plastic. Personally, I keep about 6 lemons in a silver bowl on the bar in my living room. These lemons perform several functions:

  1. They look nice. They are a beautiful bright but natural color with an interesting texture and glossy finish.
  2. They smell nice. It’s subtle but natural and you’ll become accustomed to the aroma. Proponents of aromatherapy claim that exposure to natural lemon scent reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression, and has respiratory benefits. If you’re an aromatherapy skeptic, you can’t deny that lemons smell better than a lot of things in your home, and a subtle natural smell is far superior to a lab-generated artificial smell.
  3. They are preservative free and you can consume them. If you ever need lemon juice for a recipe or cocktail, why use it from a container when you can get it straight from the fruit? Look on the label of any lemon juice container and you’ll see in addition to the juice there will be a chemical preservative. Do yourself a favor and reduce your consumption of preservatives whenever you can. Sacrifice one of your lemons – that’s what it’s there for.

Lemons are easy. Herbs take a little more work, but they provide even more benefits. Just like the lemons, they a) look nice, b) smell nice and may have aromatherapeutic benefits, and c) are preservative-free and edible. If they are in your home, you can easily add them to whatever you are eating – whether it is home-made or not. Pick some herb leaves and put them on your food – the herbs will train your taste buds to prefer fresh authentic foods over highly processed foods. Put fresh herbs on your frozen pizza. Put fresh herbs on a microwaved lean cuisine. Not only do they taste good, fresh herbs have antioxidant properties that can help you look and feel healthier.

In addition to the same 3 benefits of having fresh lemons, they offer a 4th benefit because they are a low-effort responsibility that builds a good habit. Since the herbs are potted, they need to be watered. Regularly. By YOU. Rosemary and Thyme can be watered as little as once a week. Basil needs it daily. I recommend watering all the herbs daily for a few reasons: First, it’s easier to remember to do something EVERY DAY instead of trying to remember to do something and what day it’s supposed to be done. I assume you brush your teeth every morning. Attach your plant-watering to your teeth-brushing. Water your plants right before brushing your teeth or right after brushing. This builds a habit so you do it automatically without thinking about it. Ok, so now I get to explain how having the responsibility of keeping plants alive is beneficial to you. There’s a practical answer, and a metaphysical answer. I’ll start with the practical.

The practical benefit is it makes you look like a responsible adult. It signals to anyone who comes over (or sees in a Zoom conference) that you can AT LEAST KEEP PLANTS ALIVE. You have the capacity for consistent follow-through to allow a life form in your charge to survive. That’s a good subconscious signal to any employer, colleague, or potential romantic interest.

The metaphysical answer will sound a little fruity, so I’m asking you to bear with me. The second benefit is something called “mindfulness”. It’s in the same category as meditation and probably yoga. Volumes of research allege the measurable benefits of regular meditation. Russell Simmons and Joe Rogan won’t shut up about how much they benefit from regular meditation. I’m promoting a short-cut. Instead of a 20-minute sensory-deprivation experience, just spend 10-seconds per plant giving it water every morning. While you water your plant, notice how wet or dry the soil is, how green or yellow the leaves are, how firm or limp the stems are. These 10 seconds dedicated to caring for and observing your plant is called “mindfulness” – you are focusing on only one thing and suppressing all peripheral sub-routines in your mind. It’s like microdosing your meditation.  Maybe you’ll be more receptive to try full-on meditation, but even if you never do, microdosing your meditation still provides benefits of mental well-being.

Whether you use them or not, the lemons will need to be replaced within 2 weeks. They lose their function when they start drying out. If the herbs die, there’s no shame in replacing them and trying again. Maybe try a different variety. The point is to practice these simple, inexpensive habits to make subtle but significant improvements in your life. You’ll be a better man from it.