What Are the Mental Health Benefits of Plants?
Plants have been used medicinally for centuries, in both eastern and western cultures. However, the health benefits of plants don’t stop at your physical health — plants can have some incredible mental health benefits as well. And you don’t have to be an expert botanist to reap the mental health benefits of plants in your everyday life. Even beginner house plant owners can reap the mental health benefits of interacting with and maintaining plants, which may include positive mental health and performance in your home, at work, and at school.
Increased Focus & Productivity
While there are several plants with wellness benefits that are activated by being ingested or applied topically, this is not the only way to unlock the health benefits of plants. Simply having cut flowers or potted plants in your workspace can assist focus and productivity by improving your perception of the space. Fragrant plants and herbs, such as mint and lavender, can also increase focus, recall, and decrease stress in academic environments like classrooms and testing centers.
Creating a green space can help you feel focused, as well as inspired. The effect of even just looking at plants has been noted to improve your creativity and general cognitive function. In a study by Psychology Today, test subjects with potted plants in their environment reported an increase in attentiveness and productivity. This shows that just having plants in your space, both at work and at home, can enhance your focus, increase your job satisfaction, and decrease your stress levels, which are all common barriers to the creative process. Considering the benefits it can be worthwhile to invest in creating an outdoor space to enjoy in your own yard, but if that’s not feasible, you may try taking your work to a park or public garden to encourage inspiration.
If you’re looking to better your memory, you might turn to some common herbs that you can grow right in your kitchen windowsill. Plants and herbs that have memory and cognition benefits include:
- Bean Sprouts
You can use these plants dried or fresh, however, the fresh variety of these plants can also provide you with antioxidants that can supplement your health, and protect yourself from disease-causing free radicals. Using these easy-to-grow herbs, in tandem with an active lifestyle, can help stall cognitive decline as you age, as well as sharpen your short-term memory.
Decreased Stress & Anxiety
Both cut and potted plants have been studied to decrease feelings of stress and anxiety. Interaction with indoor plants can reduce stress related to mental activities, such as work or school. In a study published by the US National Library of Medicine, horticulturists found that interactions with plants, including observation or maintenance, was shown to lower blood pressure and suppress stress responses related to the sympathetic nervous system in young adults. Interacting with plants as a work or study break — whether this is an outdoor walk, or house plant maintenance — can reduce your feelings of stress and anxiety throughout the rest of the day.
Plants, and the act of caring for plants, have also proven to be great mood boosters. Vibrantly colored plants and flowers are linked to long-lasting positive emotion, as well as to lowe feelings of depression or anxiety. Both cut and potted flowers in hospitals have also been proven to improve the mood, emotional stability, and recovery progress of patients recovering from surgery. Plants especially good at air filtration, such as peace lilies and pothos plants, can also enhance your mood by raising the air quality in your space.
High-quality sleep is an important part of maintaining good mental health, and having certain plants around you can help improve your sleep cycle. Plants like lavender can act as a natural sedative, and chamomile has been used to treat insomnia. Even outdoor plants can assist in bettering your sleep — planting privacy trees or shrubs near your window can help block out light pollution that may disturb your natural sleep cycle.
Making time for activities that benefit your mental health is an important part of looking after yourself, and integrating plants into your everyday life can be easy, cost-effective, and have lasting improvements on your mental health. Whether you start by getting a few potted plants or cultivating a private and thriving space in your own yard, the health benefits of interacting with plants are vast and can be tailored to your needs or goals.
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