The Science of Indoor Plants and Mental Health

woman with indoor plants

The relationship between human beings and plants is centuries old. However, not much is known about the effects of plants on our mental health. For years, human life nourished around the wilderness, and as we learned to build our houses and live indoors, we took the plants with us. We’ve been studying how indoor plants make us feel in a range of different indoor situations and trying to figure out the effects of having houseplants.

Evolution of stress

If we look at human history, we’ve always lived around nature, immersed in something bigger than us. However, as we built colonies, closer spaces, cities, and apartments, we got ourselves distant from nature. And now, more than ever, when it’s harder to get outdoors, it can take a toll on our mental health. Especially in the age of information technology, it is increasingly becoming an important issue to deal with accumulating stress in our daily life. Even though we’ve been having more conversations around mental health issues and their repercussions on our daily lives, we still need to look at how to combat our stress.

As you might have noticed on social media, a lot of people are claiming plants to be a secret to having a happy, stress-free life. You can see a range of people becoming new plant owners. Well, the question arises, is there any evidence behind these claims? Does having indoor plants actually have any positive effect on our mental health and reduces stress levels? Let’s find out.

woman relaxing at home

What do the studies say?

Well, the good news is multiple research studies have found conclusive evidence that having indoor plants around us reduces stress and increases productivity, intellect, and creativity. It can also improve memory retention and decrease symptoms of dementia. If we look at the psychological side of us, cultivating the growth of another living thing is a reminder to allow growth with it.

According to a survey conducted by San Francisco Hospital in 2009, patients said that the houseplants reduced the anxiety and stress levels as well as made them feel comparatively calm and at ease. Additionally, the patients also showed a positive demeanor towards hospital staff. The researchers who led this study have found similar results with a range of patients with different diseases. Other studies that explored the effect of the plants in an indoor environment also showed similar positive results.

Some psychologists believe, as per the Attention Restoration Theory, people are likely to focus better on their work if they spend time around nature. According to this theory, if you take some time to give your mind’s attention to houseplants around you, it may have a significant positive effect on your mental health.

Another research surveyed a pool of 34 student participants who were asked to complete a proofreading task with indoor plants around them. The results of the study concluded that the participants experienced lesser stress levels and felt the room’s environment was comparatively more pleasant. Similarly, another study that surveyed 18 participants with indoor plants in an office environment claims that the participants felt more comfortable with an environment with houseplants than the one without them.

Conclusion

We have now established the fact that plants do have positive effects on our mental health. However, on an interesting note, scientists have been unable to find the concrete reasons behind these positive effects. We still don’t see the full picture of why we experience such positive effects from plants in places like offices or hospitals. Well, let’s leave up to our scientific community to dwell more on the topic and figure out the actual reasons behind it. Meanwhile, it’s time to bring home some indoor plants and reap their positive effects on our mental health.

Things to note

So, whether you work from home or an office, having houseplants around you does have positive effects on your mental health. But at the same time, having indoor plants can be a responsibility. You have to take care of them regularly and not let them die. One should keep the indoor plants close to the balcony or a window, so there’s enough sunlight for them to survive. Also, it’s advisable to regularly clean the windows or opt for a window replacement service as glass windows tend to get dirty over time and start obstructing the required sunlight for indoor plants. Additionally, if you have pets at your home, you have to keep in mind that your houseplants are safe for your dogs and cats. Or for your hamster for that matter.

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