The coronavirus pandemic has put significant pressure and stress on everyone in the last couple of years. The fear of contracting the virus, infecting loved ones, and the uncertainty of times have shaken most people’s emotional and mental health. On top of a worldwide lockdown, these factors have emphasized the importance of proper mental health wellness and management. In this post, we look at how indoor plants help improve mental health.
The Promise of Green Spaces
Being outdoors and close to nature, surrounded by trees, flowers, and plants, can work wonders for one’s mental well-being. In a review of the literature published in Science Advances, Gregory Bratman, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Washington, and his colleagues shared sufficient scientific evidence that contact with nature is closely linked to:
- Increased feelings of happiness
- Positive social interactions
- Improved subjective well being
- Having a sense of meaning and purpose in life
- Decreased mental stress
Replicating the Benefits with Indoor Plants
It would be nice to live near public parks and gardens where you can always go for a stroll and reconnect with nature whenever you feel stressed and down. Nevertheless, you can also access nature’s mental health benefits through vertical gardening if you have limited space or with beautiful houseplants. Like spending time outdoors, indoor plants can dramatically improve your overall mental health.
Here are two science-backed reasons why you need more indoor plants.
1 // Plants can reduce the risk of anxiety and depression
Horticultural therapy has significantly benefited those struggling with dementia and other mental health issues. A survey by major San Francisco Bay Area hospitals has found that after spending time in the garden working with houseplants, most patients said they felt more relaxed, calm, positive, refreshed, and closer to recovery.
For example, patients of Cornbrook Medical Practice in Hulme who are experiencing symptoms of loneliness, anxiety, and depression are prescribed a potted plant to take care of. They bring them home and return to a communal garden to replant once it has matured, where they are also given a chance to interact with others in the community.
2 // Looking at houseplants can increase focus, attention span, and productivity
The presence of plants brings a calming effect that helps stressed or anxious people stay in the moment and concentrate on their current tasks. They can also help reduce feelings of physical and emotional burnout, which is extremely common for many professionals who work long hours in front of their computers in the office and individuals worldwide forced to study or work from home during the height of the pandemic.
According to the American Society for Horticultural Science:
“In these processes, indoor plants are seen as features of the indoor environment that attract attention without effort and evoke positive emotions that can respectively promote renewal of the capacity to concentrate and interrupt the stress process.”
Moreover, a study by the University of Exeter revealed that filling indoor workspaces with greenery can elevate employees’ productivity and quality of life. They found that those working in green office spaces are more physically, cognitively, and emotionally involved in their work.
3 // Plants can have a soothing effect that may help you sleep better at night
Sleep health plays a pivotal role in every aspect of human health, and mental wellness is no exception. Contrary to the popular misconception that sleeping in the same room with plants can be harmful, greenery in your bedroom can help regulate your blood pressure and heart rate. Plants giving you a safe and calm feeling that encourages you to fall asleep faster and deeper. Keeping a potted lavender plant on your nightstand is as effective as diffusing essential oils. Its distinct floral fragrance is best known for its relaxing properties that can melt the day’s worries away and prompt you to have a restful night of sleep.
4 // You’re less likely to get sick with houseplants around
During winter, you have higher risks of catching a cold or contracting the flu because of the low humidity indoors, sapped by furnaces and air conditioning. Having several houseplants at home is a clever strategy to boost moisture in the air, especially during the colder season. Interestingly, the presence of plants in workspaces was also strongly linked to reduced absences from work due to sickness.
5 // They promote healing and speedy recovery
Plants and flowers are common get-well gifts because of their well-known healing benefits. Research shows that patients recovering from surgery who can see ornamental plants and flowers in their hospital rooms had significantly more positive physiologic responses. This was evidenced by lower systolic blood pressure and lower ratings of pain, anxiety, and fatigue than patients in the control room. In addition, patients staying in rooms with plants also had a more cheerful and positive disposition. They also had better impressions of the nurses and hospital staff taking care of them.
6 // Plants can enhance indoor air quality at home
A NASA study claims that common houseplants have the beneficial properties to filter airborne volatile organic compounds (VOCs) significantly. Exposure to VOCs is a serious issue because it has long been established to cause headaches, nausea, and irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat. Some are even believed to be potent carcinogens. We are exposed to airborne VOCs daily through paints, paint strippers, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, household cleansers, and disinfectants.
That’s why investing in plenty of houseplants to improve air quality at home can do you a lot of good if this is something you’re concerned about. Here are some of the most effective air-purifying houseplants:
- Rubber tree
- Boston fern
- Spider plant
- Snake plant
- Ficus tree
- Areca palm
- Bamboo palm
Are you a new homeowner? Read our blogs for tips on how to achieve an eco-friendly home.
Guest post by Jade Piper: Jade Piper is a writer and mother based in Indianapolis. She is a keen environmentalist and in her spare time enjoys gardening, reading, and listening to music.
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