Green Therapy: The Health Benefits of Indoor Plants
In a time when gardens are shrinking, or even disappearing altogether in the face of growing urbanisation and the rise of flats and rented accommodation, it's easy to feel detached from nature. Perhaps age or physical limitations have kept you from the garden you once tended with such care. You might find yourself missing the feeling of soil between your fingers, the sense of peace that comes from being surrounded by greenery, and the simple joy of watching things grow. But do not despair...
Even in the smallest flat or the busiest schedule, there's room for a touch of nature. Indoor plants offer an excellent solution, bringing a slice of the outdoors inside and offering a host of physical and psychological health benefits. Let's explore how these verdant companions can contribute to your health and wellbeing...
Reduced Stress and Anxiety:
In our increasingly busy and connected world, stress and anxiety have become commonplace. This is where the serenity of indoor plants can provide a much-needed respite. According to a study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, interacting with indoor plants, such as watering, potting, or merely touching their leaves, can significantly reduce both physiological and psychological stress.
The researchers discovered that indoor gardening tasks not only induced changes in physiological responses, like lower blood pressure and heart rate, but they also led to improved emotional states. Participants reported feeling more comfortable, soothed, and natural. Moreover, the interaction with plants offered a break from routine, invoking a sense of care and mindfulness that is often lost in the hustle of daily life.
Boosted Mood and Productivity:
The psychological benefits of indoor plants extend beyond just stress reduction. They also foster a more productive and happier environment. A study conducted at the University of Exeter found that plants in the office not only boosted employee satisfaction but also improved their quality of life.
The presence of plants contributed to an enriched environment that boosted productivity by 15%. The greenery aided in maintaining sustained attention and enhancing creativity, possibly by providing a visually pleasing and calming backdrop. This aligns with the biophilia hypothesis, suggesting that humans have an inherent affinity towards nature and natural processes, and interacting with nature can lead to improved cognitive functioning and mental well-being.
Quality sleep is essential for maintaining overall health, yet it eludes many people. Interestingly, certain indoor plants may help promote better sleep. Plants like lavender and jasmine are well-known for their calming and sleep-inducing effects.
A study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that the scent of lavender could decrease heart rate and blood pressure, potentially improving sleep quality.
The calming aroma of jasmine has also been associated with better sleep quality and efficiency. The fragrances these plants emit can lower anxiety levels, often a significant contributor to sleep disturbances. Therefore, adding these plants to your sleeping environment may enhance relaxation and improve sleep patterns.
Natural Blood Pressure Regulator:
Did you know that your workspace foliage might be silently contributing to your heart health? Intriguingly, a groundbreaking study published in the renowned journal Nature in 2015 made an eye-opening discovery. They found that individuals surrounded by plants in their working environments demonstrated lower blood pressure compared to their counterparts in plant-free areas.
To reach this conclusion, the researchers recruited 100 participants, splitting them into two groups. One group was blessed with verdant workspace buddies, while the others worked in a plant-absent environment. After a careful six-week observation period, the results were startling. The plant-present group showed a significant reduction in blood pressure!
The team behind the study speculates that the oxygen-releasing capability of the plants might have contributed to the blood pressure drop. Additionally, the soothing effect of having greenery around may have played a role in stress reduction, another major contributor to high blood pressure.
Brain Boost for the Elderly:
Are your indoor plants making you smarter? A study published in Scientific Reports in 2020 seems to indicate so! The research focused on the golden years of life, showing that plants can enhance cognitive function in older adults.
The study involved 60 seniors, divided into two groups. One group lived with plants in their surroundings, while the other did not. After measuring cognitive function at the start and six months into the experiment, the results were revealing. The group living with plants showed a significant cognitive improvement!
The scientists behind the study believe that this brain boost might be linked to reduced stress levels and an increase in overall well-being provided by the plants. Moreover, they speculated that the plants' presence resulted in a stimulating environment, contributing to cognitive function improvement.
These captivating discoveries are just a glimpse into the remarkable health benefits indoor plants can offer. As research blossoms in this field, we're sure to uncover even more ways our leafy companions are enhancing our lives.
Improved Air Quality:
According to a famous study conducted by NASA in 1989, certain indoor plants can absorb harmful toxins present in the air, including benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene1. These pollutants often originate from common household items like cleaning products, carpets, or paints. By removing these toxins, indoor plants can help improve air quality, potentially reducing risks associated with chronic diseases like asthma or allergies.
Plants undergo a process known as transpiration, where they release moisture into the air. This natural humidification can be beneficial, especially in drier climates or during winter when heating systems can create arid indoor environments. Increased humidity can help reduce dry skin, dry cough, and even decrease the spread of some airborne viruses.
(This is the ZZ plant we have in the office.)
As we continue to seek balance in our busy lives, introducing indoor greenery serves as a simple yet potent strategy to boost our health and overall well-being. Indoor plants, with their minimal care requirements and their abundance of benefits, are more than just decorative elements - they become silent, life-enhancing companions.
By inviting these little pieces of nature into our homes and offices, we gift ourselves a set of tangible benefits that can notably improve the quality of our daily life.
They can in many ways replace some of the joy that having a garden brings.
So why not explore the world of indoor plants and discover how they can contribute to your healthy living journey today?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Which indoor plants are most effective for improving air quality?
NASA's study recommended several plants for air purification, including the Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata), Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa'), and Red-Edged Dracaena (Dracaena reflexa).
2. How many plants do I need for my space?
While more plants will likely provide more benefits, it's important to consider your space and care capacity. Even a single plant can help boost mood and add a touch of nature to your environment.
3. I don't have a green thumb. Are there any low-maintenance indoor plants?
Absolutely! Some low-maintenance plants that are perfect for beginners include the ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum), and Pothos (Epipremnum aureum).
4. Where can I source indoor plants?
Indoor plants are widely accessible and can easily be found at local garden centres, where sections are often dedicated to these house-friendly green companions. Alternatively, numerous online retailers specialise in indoor plants, offering a broad range of species suitable for various environments and care levels.
This article is for general information only and is not intended to treat or diagnose medical conditions. If in doubt please check with your GP first.
Lee, M. S., Lee, J., Park, B. J., & Miyazaki, Y. (2015). Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in young adults: a randomized crossover study. Journal of physiological anthropology.
Nieuwenhuis, M., Knight, C., Postmes, T., & Haslam, S. A. (2014). The relative benefits of green versus lean office space: Three field experiments. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
Koulivand, P. H., Khaleghi Ghadiri, M., & Gorji, A. (2013). Lavender and the nervous system. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Wolverton, B. C., Johnson, A., & Bounds, K. (1989). Interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement. NASA
Fjeld, T., Veiersted, B., Sandvik, L., Riise, G., & Levy, F. (1998). The Effect of Indoor Foliage Plants on Health and Discomfort Symptoms Among Office Workers. Indoor and Built Environment.
 Iwasaki, A., Medzhitov, R. (2015). Control of adaptive immunity by the innate immune system. Nature Immunology.
 Nature (2015): The influence of indoor plants on human psychological state and performance.
 Scientific Reports (2020): The effects of indoor plants on cognitive function in older adults: A randomized controlled trial.
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