by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
There is a good reason those fiddle leaf figs are flying off the shelves. Houseplants are a boon for your mental health. Especially during these socially-deprived and tumultuous times midst COVID, civil unrest, and divisive politics.
Stoneside surveyed nearly a thousand people to see how their plants influenced their stress levels with some fascinating results. They found some of the top reasons for purchasing plants since COVID began are to beautify living spaces (65%), with 54% noting they wanted “to have something else to focus on.” Talking to your plants is apparently normal, with 55% responding they speak to their plants. In the face of months and months of social isolation, we’re all for talking to Farley the Fern and Fifi the Ficus. But beyond beauty and the hobby of caring for plants, they benefit us in many ways.
Houseplants Provide a Taste of Nature
“Houseplants are an easy way to bring the outside in and reap the restorative and calming effects of nature. Time Magazine reported ‘Forest Bathing,’ spending time around nature lowers stress levels, reduces blood pressure, and has an overall relaxing effect on the body.
Tending to plants Teaches Us Self-Care.
As some struggle with their mental health, it’s a comfort to know something as simple as watering a plant or giving your green babies some food is a boon for your mental state. Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, working at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, found habits formed when caring for plants lay the foundation of doing these things for yourself. They create a positive mental feedback loop. “Plants are a metaphor for ourselves. Tangible evidence of what can happen when we are consistent, do what needs to be done, and adapt to our environmental needs. Plants teach us the outcome is worth the effort and that we are constantly growing and evolving.”
Plants Boost Creativity
There are so many benefits to having indoor plants, especially as people are working from home more and more. As we stare endlessly at the walls of isolation, we need a double dose of creative energy. This includes improved cognitive function and creativity. A Texas A&M study found having indoor plants in the workplace dramatically enhances idea generation, creative problem-solving and boosts concentration. The Dutch have a name for this ‘gezellig.’ This translates to coziness, comfort, and relaxation that provides a sense of well-being.
Houseplants Increase Productive
It is hard to stay focused with endless screen time and long Zoom calls. Plants provide much-needed mojo. A Journal of Experimental Psychology found the presence of plants in the workplace led to increased productivity, positive perceptions of air quality, and higher levels of concentration,” comments Dr. Romanoff. “They observed increased workplace satisfaction with objective measures to increased productivity as a result of plants in the workplace.” She continues, “this is a testament to how plants enrich our environments, mood and well-being.”
Reduces Anxiety with a Boost to Mood
Have a coffee with a friend or take a class at your favorite yoga studio; even going to church right now is difficult during COVID. Adding more houseplants to your windowsill is a low-effort way to ease your mind and lower stress levels. “Exposure to indoor plants has positive effects on mental health. When we’re in the presence of indoor plants, the activity of our sympathetic nervous system, which is the fight-or-flight portion of our nervous system, decreases,” says Dr. Janelle Louis. “Indoor plants promote a sense of relaxation, comfort, and calm.”
Many of us are not lucky enough to walk through a forest. Houseplants are the perfect escape. Research showed active interactions with houseplants such as repotting, pruning, touching, and smell have the same stress-reducing effects as spending time in a forest.
If you are not into owning houseplants, try heading to your local park, a tree-lined path, or a grassy field. “Spending time in green space has positive effects on mental health. Being exposed to green space for as little as 20-30 minutes leads to a significant drop in our levels of the stress hormone cortisol,” says Dr. Louis. “High levels of cortisol for prolonged periods are associated with mood swings, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.”
Watters Free Houseplant Class this Saturday @ 9:30 am
We go deep into growing better houseplants. Check out this spring’s entire class selection offered every Saturday at Watters Garden Center.
Jan 15 – Happy, Healthy Houseplants with Professional Style
Jan 22 – Top Local Landscapes with Flair
Jan 29 – Why January is the Month to Plant Wildflowers
Until next week, I’ll be helping gardeners relax with more houseplants here at Watters Garden Center.