Take two houseplants and call me in the morning! Although studies correlating the mental health benefits of gardening have been around for decades, it’s still something of a new concept. Read on for more.
Health Benefits of Indoor Plants
There is no doubt the industrial revolution led to widespread urbanization. Workers moving from farms to cities were met with buildings and paved roads in place of nature. In modern times, large urban areas contain more concrete than trees and grass. In fact, other than water, we use more concrete than any other substance.
Does living in an urbanized concrete world affect our mental health? The answer is yes. Urbanization increases our stress levels due to overcrowding, pollution, and violence. What’s more, it's estimated only 13% of urban residents reap the mental health benefits of plants.
Currently, more than 80% of Americans live in an urbanized setting. As other countries become more industrialized, the worldwide number of urbanites is expected to rise by the year 2050. Never has it been more important to understand and utilize the psychological benefits of plants.
Psychological Benefits of Plants
Study after study has demonstrated the benefits of plants in the work, school, hospital and the home environments. Simply adding green space to these environments can improve both mental and physical health. Working in a garden can improve muscle tone and being around nature and plants can lower the heart rate and blood pressure.
Much of the research on the benefits of indoor plants has looked to the following as barometers of improved mental health:
- Faster reaction time – One study revealed test subjects were able to complete computer tasks 12% faster in rooms with houseplants as compared to those in rooms without plants.
- Improved concentration – Studies comparing the amount of nature present in the windows of lower income youth showed a rise in the youth's ability to concentrate as “greenness” increased.
- More memory retention – One study found that exposure to nature can improve memory retention by as much as twenty percent.
- Better breathing – Houseplants create a healthier environment by replacing carbon dioxide with oxygen and removing airborne chemicals. This leads to clearer thinking.
- Increased productivity - Studies found test subjects performed tasks with greater accuracy when in the presence of nature.
- Less anxiety – Studies with mice indicate a bacteria (Mycobacterium vaccae) which lives in the soil may provide similar benefits as prescription antidepressants.
- Lowered stress levels – Many studies have demonstrated lower stress levels as one of the mental health benefits of gardening. One study compared gardening to reading, and found gardening was better at reducing stress levels.
- Decrease in depression – Houseplants and flowers bolster our moods and reduce levels of stress-related depression.
- Boost to morale – Studies on office workers reveal plants create a more attractive and pleasant place to work.
- Enhanced perception of work space – Viewing nature has been found to reduce mental fatigue. Improved employee retention might prove to be one of the benefits of indoor plants in work environments.
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Laura Miller has been gardening all her life. Holding a degree in Biology, Nutrition, and Agriculture, Laura's area of expertise is vegetables, herbs, and all things edible. She lives in Ohio.