Brittany Gowan has a serious love for plants, a secret that her handle @ihavethisthingwithurbanjungles, may let you in on. At first glance, her platform just scratches the surface of her passion for our leafy counterparts—take a closer look and you’ll find that Gowan’s love actually stems from something much deeper, something much more genuine.
Leaning into her background in Applied Psychology and Coaching, Brittany realized that the healing power of plants was something that all human beings need in the modern world. It’s this very phenomena that she integrates not only visually, but in her every day practices. In 2018, she started Pause With Plants, a podcast that takes the listener through 5 minute imaginative audio journeys, connecting them with nature to promote healing and de-stressing. We had the opportunity to sit down with this Plant Guru to talk everything from personal growth to ways to stay in touch with the natural world—both inside and outside of the concrete jungle. Read below!
If you were a plant, what plant would you be?
I would definitely want to be a tropical plant—one that loves the sun and warm weather and grows stunning leaves. I love a philodendron gloriosum or massive birds of paradise.
Where are your favorite places in NY to connect with nature & de-stress?
I love the city for the many places people can connect with the natural world. Community gardens in Alphabet City and the Lower East Side are true gems. Most weekends you can find me walking through one of the gardens and exploring new flowers and plant growth. I also love The High Line. It’s a very special place to step away from the city and enter wild greenery.
When did you decide to start your podcast? What was the process of starting the podcast? Why did that format draw you in?
In January 2018, I started the call-to-action hashtag #PausewithPlants for people to elevate how they mindfully connect with plants and nature for personal wellness and inspire environmental awareness. The Pause with Plants podcast began soon after. I’ve always enjoyed storytelling and find imaginative journeys to be both experiential and meditative. The podcast features imaginative journeys into the natural world and allows people to fully engage with their breath and natural settings. I wanted to offer my community a simple and enjoyable way to release stress and connect with nature, and thought a podcast was the best way to bring these meditations to others. I really love writing these meditations and offering this style of experiential wellness to people.
How has your practice and coaching style evolved over time?
Great question. As my company Pause with Plants has grown and evolved, my coaching has changed to incorporate how the living world can help support personal growth. When I’m working with clients to map out their plans towards goal achievement, we also create an action plan for them to increase how they are connecting with nature and mindfully being present to the ways nature’s progress can encourage our own resilience and growth.
In what ways are plants a form of self-expression?
Plants help people to show off their love of the natural world. Also, like pets, I think some plants definitely represent the certain characteristics of their plant parents.
How would you recommend people stay connected with the natural world while cooped-up in quarantine?
Staying connected to the natural world is so important right now for both our mental and physical health and also to feel connected to people and the planet. Houseplants are a wonderful way to feel close to nature at home. As extensions of larger landscapes, plants bring the outside in. Through my Pause with Plants method, I teach people how to connect, move and meditate with plants. One simple way to connect is by focusing on your breath, breathing slowly and evenly as you direct your attention to a plant and look to see all the little details of the leaves and stems. This is a great way to practice mindfulness. Notice the colors, textures and patterns of a leaf. Challenge yourself to stay in this moment with your plants and your breath, concentrating on what is present to you in this moment.
What are your thoughts on plant-based medicine? How do you promote plant-based wellness in your body as well as your mind?
Plants hold a power to help people heal and support healthy living. Society turned away from utilizing the healing properties of nature but fortunately, today, more people realize the benefits of the natural world. I support the integration of plant-based medicine and wellness in people’s daily lives. The goal is to elevate, restore and calm your mind and body to live well and care for your holistic health.
What did you find in your time studying psychology that led you to your current job? How do you use plants in your own home and routines?
Psychology increased my understanding of human behavior and helps me better connect with my coaching clients. I built Pause with Plants to be a company that integrates psychology into nature-centered mindfulness practices.
My morning routine starts my day off connecting with plants. I do either some plant-care like watering or pruning or getting out into a natural setting and being really present to the plant life. This routine has definitely something that helps to support my health and well-being.
In a very literal sense, urban and jungle are almost contradictory. To you, what is the relationship between these two words? How are they interconnected? Different?
I’ve always been fascinated by nature in city life. I am amazed by plants that grow and thrive amid the challenges of an environment that doesn’t encourage their success. For me, cities wouldn’t be what they are without the inclusion of green spaces, hence my love of the mashup of words like urban and jungle.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Growing up I was a competitive swimmer. My coach used to tell us, “Keep your head down and only look up when you finish the race and touch the wall.” I’ve brought this idea into my professional life. It’s easy to get distracted or pay too much attention to the competition. Instead we benefit from staying focused and centered on our own goals.