Houseplants and Mental Health: Can Plants Really Make You Happy?

With a growing number of people suffering from mental health issues nowadays, it wouldn’t be surprising to know that measures are being taken to improve the mental states of these individuals through the least invasive methods. After all, medication should be the last resort at sol. In this article, you will learn about how plants make us happy, what are the current statistics on mental health issues in the United States, what is plant therapy, what other health benefits can plants provide, and the different plants that can help with anxiety, stress, depression, or simply uplift your mood.

For decades, experts have been conducting researches on how plants affect humans in the aspect of mental health. Various studies on anxiety, mood enhancements, healing, productivity, and overall well-being have been published proving that plants are indeed effective in making us happy.

How Can Plants Make You Happy?

Plants are definitely more than for aesthetics. Their mere presence makes our surroundings brighter and uplifts our moods. Placing them strategically in spaces that feel drab and empty bring life to dead spaces in your home. According to various studies, having plants around are therapeutic. They help us manage stress and focus our energy positively.

We spend more time indoors because of our lifestyle today. This is especially true for city folk or people who live in urbanity. City life outdoors isn’t as green as we’d expect it to be, which in turn lessens our interaction with nature. We’re not just talking about lush trees, and a variety of plants, but this also includes clean and fresh air, and bright blue skies. To compensate for this lack, a lot of people who live in the city have a few potted plants in their homes.

So, how do indoor plants make you happier? According to the researches, the green foliage and blooms trigger happiness and improve moods. Billions of neural pathways respond well with the sight of plants, informing our brain that we are indeed elated to see nature’s wonders in our living spaces. Plants are said to:

Improve Healing

Plants are placed in hospital recovery rooms, patients may be provided with a garden view, or by the very least they are allowed to keep flowers in their rooms because they have been proven to boost the body’s healing properties.

People who are confined in small office spaces and have no access to any greenery have the tendency to feel sick more often. Companies that actually have plants within working spaces have a lower absenteeism rate. This is because plants are able to:

  • Reduce Stress
  • Lower Blood Pressure
  • Boost Immunity
  • Improve Sleep

At the end of the day, having a plant around is an inexpensive option you can have for a healthier space.

Enhance Performance and Increase Energy

Generally, plants improve the state of mind which increases vitality too. Indoor areas that have plants and other natural elements promote positivity, which make people more active. Plants stimulate the mind and is definitely one way to boost energy especially when you’re confined in a small space.

In a way, having plants around your workspace is cost effective. For just a little amount of money you can increase your productivity. Libraries, offices, and schools should have indoor plants around.

Helps You Relax

When we are closer to nature, we feel more relaxed. This is the very reason why when we go on vacation we tend to visit beaches, forests, mountains, and such to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. Being able to see the blue sky, smell nature, and see greeneries can definitely relax your eyes and your mind. By imitating the greenery we see in nature in our indoor spaces, we are able to apply the same principle and promote relaxation at home. The more we are relaxed, the less stress we feel, the more productive we become at the end of the day. It’s this kind of positive chain reaction we need to promote wellness in ourselves.

Improves Memory and Focus

Aromatic plants such as rosemary, have been proven to enhance memory through our sense of smell. Likewise, other plants help us concentrate better through its mere presence. According to a study conducted in the the University of Michigan, around 20% of memory retention is improved in individuals that are surrounded by plant life. This positively affects our cognitive skills and learning capabilities. All this by just having plants within your line of vision.

Absorbs Noise

Living in the city can be noisy. With cars constantly passing through, construction of new infrastructures continuously happening, and congestion of people in a single area, homeowners are always looking for a way to eliminate the noise within their living space. Even small amounts of noise, can cause a lot of stress. By having plants in your home, you can eliminate background noise. The leaves of the plants are great at absorbing sound and diffract background noise. The bigger the leaves, the more effective.

It all boils down to how our brain interprets what we see, smell, and feel into a positive cognitive reaction. With plants surrounding our home and even indoors, we are able to improve our mood altogether and essentially feel happy.

Statistics on Mental Health

Mental illness is a serious matter that needs to be addressed appropriately by every nation. In the US alone, there are approximately 1 in 5 adults that suffer from a serious mental illness that would require intensive treatment. There are even more people who are simply undiagnosed for these illnesses, and would not know how to manage it. With this statistic alone, we should be vigilant about our own mental health and learn to control how our brain interprets stress.

As we mentioned, most people would prefer to take the less invasive approach in treating themselves, be it anxiety or episodes of depression. Thankfully, plants are effective in improving the overall mood of a person. Those with anxiety, depression, and overwhelming stress would just need to surround themselves with plant life to feel better. Of course, it would still be the best to seek professional counsel regarding treatment. Having plants is just an added precaution you can take to improve mental health.

The presence of plants around is not only a form of psychological therapy, there is a lot of science that happens and it has been studied intensively by various universities and organizations.

What is Plant Therapy?

Yes, there is such a thing as plant therapy. This form of therapy is also known as horticulture therapy. The practice in using plants to calm the senses dates back to almost 20 centuries ago. In fact, the ancient Egyptians used “walks in the garden” to treat patients diagnosed with some form of mental illness, and it had been deemed effective.

The hospitals in the middle ages would have a garden space that would allow patients to stroll through. It has been noted that most patients that were exposed to nature during the time of healing have a better disposition, and are able to heal faster compared to those that prefer to sit in their hospital rooms all day. The faster they heal, the more effective the treatment is.

Eventually, the western world began to use plant therapy technique as a means to treat patients with mental health concerns and developmental disabilities.  In 1817, the Friends Hospital, formerly known as the Asylum for Persons Deprived of Reason developed the surrounding land with landscaping and easy-to-access pathways to help patients get better with plant-based interactions. The same hospital built the first greenhouse that was actually used in therapy. The plant therapy method in this hospital has been quite effective, and has influenced other neighboring hospitals to practice the same technique.

During the war era, both World War I and World War II, soldiers that were undergoing physical and occupational therapy to improve the function of their injured limbs were asked to work in gardens. It was noted that they were able to increase mental function, in addition, to gain back the same level of mobility they once had. These soldiers have exhibited a better healing rate compared to those that stayed inside the confines of the wards post-op.

The method is so effective that an organization has been founded in its honor; the American Horticulture Therapy Association (AHTA). This association offers professionals an opportunity to practice plant therapy and be a registered Horticultural Therapist.

What Are the Health Benefits of Having Plants Around You?
Aside from improving our mood and making us happy, having plants in our homes can also improve our physical health. If you need more convincing on why plants should be part of your interior decor, look no further, here are some health benefits plants can provide:

Plants Help You Breathe Better

Oxygen is essential to the human body, in the process of respiration, we exhale carbon dioxide. During a plant’s active phase, it goes through photosynthesis. This is when the plant absorbs the carbon dioxide in the air, along with water, light, and soil nutrients. The waste product of plants during photosynthesis would be oxygen. Essentially, plants help increase the oxygen levels in a given space.  Therefore when there is an abundance of oxygen in the air, the easier it is for us to breath.

Ideally, photosynthesis only happens during the day. At night, the plants would be releasing carbon dioxide, which is why it is advisable to choose a plant that continuously produce oxygen throughout the day. These plants would be ideal for you bedroom.

They Keep You Away From Illnesses

In nature, plant roots access groundwater and allows it to evaporate through its leaves. This process is also know as transpiration. The moisture in the atmosphere actually come from this, which makes the surrounding environment relatively cooler. At home, most indoor plants do the same thing. They are able to stabilize the humidity. In a study conducted at the Agricultural University of Norway, it is said that plants within living spaces are able to reduce the incidence of dry skin, sore throats, dry coughs, and even colds. With higher absolute humidity, thanks to indoor plants, the survival of the flu virus is also affected.

They Absorb the Toxins in the Air

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conducted a study on plants and air quality back in 1989. The extensive research was able to prove that a number of houseplants are able to improve the overall air quality. It is said, that both leaves and roots are able to remove toxins from the air within sealed spaces. Toxins that are harmful to humans like Carbon Monoxide, Benzene, and Formaldehyde can easily be absorbed by certain plants. In addition to this, we know that plants give out oxygen and it is because of this, we are able to breathe better, and cleaner air that is not riddled with toxins.

According to this same researcher, NASA experts recommend that one potted plant must be placed within a hundred square fee of indoor space for optimum results.

They Encourage Healing
As we have mentioned earlier, plants are able to improve healing. This is the very reason why, doctors encourage the family of their patients to bring flowers or plants when visiting. It actually helps the patients feel better. It is said to be a completely inexpensive, non-invasive and effective form of complimentary treatment for post-operative patients. A study done in Kansas State University was able to prove this claim when patients that were able to view plants post-op had a significant improvement with their physiologic responses. Their blood pressures were regulated, the pain was more tolerable, there is less anxiety, and less fatigue. This is as opposed to patients that did not have plants in their rooms.

Plants That are Good for Anxiety

There are dozens of plants that can soothe headaches, reduce stress, lessen strain, and control anxiety. Most people who suffer from anxiety are often those who spend a lot of time indoors due to work or other issues. With the poor indoor air quality, your health will definitely be affected and this also includes mental health. Plants are definitely a cost-effective way to improve anxiety issues. Here are our top 5 picks:

  • Jasmine
    These plants are often found outdoors, but can also be grown in interior spaces with the right maintenance. The fragrance of the Jasmine flower is sweet and very pleasing to the sense that it induces sleeping. Around the aroma of the Jasmine flower, you feel more at peace and definitely less anxious.
    • Indoor Care Tips: These plants are more accustomed to growing outdoors, but they can easily adapt to indoor conditions as well. If your goal is to have them flower, and your home does not really permit the access of full light, what you can do is invest in grow lights that specifically emit red light that would promote floral bloom. The soil for your plant must be moist and never soggy. Overwatering your plant will never end well. When kept indoors these plants have the tendency to be overwatered since they consume less indoors and the sun isn’t able to completely evaporate the excess.
  • Lavender
    Closely related to the mint, the lavender plant is often used in the form of an essential oil. The scent is quite strong and alluring that is has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety and improve sleep. Pediatricians even recommend the use of lavender scented oils to calm agitated babies.
    • Indoor Care Tips: Another plant that is often grown outdoors, these bushy shrubs can also survive in indoor conditions. Keep your lavender potted, and kept far from wet spaces. They are not too picky with soil that you can plant them in clay-like soil and they will still live. They love light, so keeping them in well-lit spaces is a must. You can opt to put them by the window sill or in the kitchen where it is often bright.
  • Rosemary
    Mostly used in the culinary industry, this perennial herb is quite useful in improving air quality, enhancing memory, reducing stress, and eventually eliminating anxiety. The herb itself is packed with dozens of active agents and enzymes that are able to help you with your needs. It may be consumed or even used in aromatherapy.
    • Indoor Care Tips: The rosemary is quite resilient that they can grow in either outdoor or indoor conditions with relatively the same amount of care. They enjoy bright light and cool spaces, which would make placing them in your living space or kitchen excellent for their growth. You just need to remember to prune them in order for them maintain their form. You can also replant them easily with the use of grafting.
  • English Ivy
    The English Ivy is great at reducing the amount of mold in your home, around 94% of mold spores can be reduced in just 12 hours of exposure to the plant. It is also capable of absorbing formaldehyde. Through lessening the amount of this toxin in the air, you can relax and get a good night’s rest.
    • Indoor Care Tips: The one thing you must focus on when taking care of an English Ivy is the moisture of the soil. Before re watering your plants you much check and see if the soil needs any more water. These plants prefer to be kept slightly dry, so allow it to completely dry through in between waterings. Fertilizing is quite important if you plant to take care of English Ivies. This needs to be done at least once a month and eliminated during the plant’s dormant phase. It would also require a little dusting to allow its foliage to absorb more light.
  • Snake Plants
    People who suffer from chronic eye irritation, headaches, and breathing problems would definitely benefit by having a snake plant within their space. They can also improve energy levels, and is quite easy to mix in with any decor.
    During the intensive study conducted by NASA, they were able to discover the various benefits of keeping a snake plant in your home. They placed a snake plant in an enclosed space for 24 hours and released toxins into the air. They were able to note that the benzene and trichloroethylene levels were decreased by a significant amount. This explains how it lessens headaches and other discomfort we feel.
    • Indoor Care Tips: In terms of tolerance, the snake plant is one of the front runners. They can survive weeks of neglect and still look like they’re good as new. They also easily adapt to low-lit spaces. It is very important that you do not water them too much, especially in cooler seasons. When kept in areas where it is relatively cool, you do not need to water them a often either. In fact, it would be best to let these plants completely dry out before watering them again. You can apply fertilizer to your plant, but it is not really a necessity.

Plants That Help with Stress Around the Office

Most companies nowadays invest in having plants around their workspaces. The American Institute of Stress has documented that 80% of individuals in the workforce today experience some form of stress while on the job. Thus, making stress a common factor for various issues that may occur. Office managers make it a point to improve the environment of their staff, and by placing plants in these spaces they are able to improve their company’s performance.

Top Five Plants to Reduce Employee Stress.

  • Aloe Plant
    The Aloe Vera is quite popular for its medicinal properties but they are also great at improving the quality of air. It has even been dubbed as “nature’s air purifier”. The main reason they are kept in office spaces is because they require very little water and not that much attention. In fact, they prefer to be neglected since overwatering can cause harm to their roots.
  • English Ivy
    As mentioned earlier the English Ivy is quite effective in reducing molds in living spaces. Offices are often musty and would benefit greatly from having this kind of plant around. They are quite easy to store too. They can be placed in a hanging basket or a in a pot with a stake. The only thing you would need to do is prune it every now and then to make sure it does not become leggy or overgrow it’s pot.
  • Snake Plant
    Aside from the occasional dusting, the snake plant takes little to absolutely no effort to care for. They don’t need to be watered as often and they don’t mind being in artificial lighting for a prolonged time. By being able to rid the air of toxins, this plant is quite helpful in office spaces. Their slim appearance makes them easier to add to your office space, it will definitely not clash with your decor.
  • Philodendron
    All plants need light in order for them to be able to produce food. The difference with plants that require little to almost no maintenance is that they are able to adapt in conditions where they may not have access to all the requirements they need. The Philodendron is able to survive in the almost barren conditions of offices since they do not need to be watered often and would just need a small amount of natural light.
  • Peace Lily
    These plants thrive in low-lit spaces, and produce beautiful white blooms. In addition to be quite easy to care for, they are also equipped with the capability of absorbing toxins from the air such as formaldehyde, benzene, and acetone. Another thing to appreciate about the peace lily is its beauty. Unlike most low-maintenance indoor plants. They are not slim and flowerless; in fact, this plant has lush foliage and gorgeous white blooms.

It truly pays to invest in these plants. They are quite inexpensive to buy, and will not die after a short amount of neglect. These plants have been tested and proven effective as de-stressors and will guarantee good results.

Are you Biophilic?

People who are predisposed to loving plant life are known to be biophilic. People categorized as such choose to be close to natural environments.

Based on extensive research, people, in general, have a strong and positive association with plants and trees. Without plant life, people would literally experience physical and mental stress. So, if you find yourself attracted to nature in a different or a more intense level. You can be certain that you are biophilic.

In this day and age, we often find people more interested in technology and other advancements that they forget the true essence of nature. It would be nice to see more people completely invested in the environment as well

Going back to our initial question: can plants really make you happy? The quick answer would be yes. With tons of research to back-up this claim, you will be doing yourself a favor by investing in a small indoor garden today.

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