Latest posts by Joey Doherty, MA, LPC, CWC (see all)
- What’s Missing from Conventional Mental Healthcare - April 17, 2016
- Nature Deficit Disorder - March 9, 2016
- 12 Psychological Benefits of Houseplants - January 31, 2016
For thousands of years, humans have been bringing plants indoors to benefit their lives. Numerous studies have shown that people who have houseplants are more satisfied with life than those without plants in their homes. But why is this? We intuitively know that houseplants are good for our mental wellness, but may not know why.
The following are 12 reasons houseplants improve your psychological health. I believe that when you know why something is good for you, its beneficial effects become even greater, because our minds are incredibly powerful and can influence our health.
These are the reasons I often prescribe a houseplant for my clients who are depressed and/or anxious, instead of recommending a psychotropic medication that won’t change their unhealthy lifestyle.
- Houseplants boost your mood
Researchers have pinpointed a microbe called M. vaccae, nicknamed “outdoorphins,” which is found in soil and works as a natural antidepressant. It boosts your mood by releasing cytokines, which then leads your brain to produce more serotonin. So, just by being around soil, these outdoorphins flood your body and boost your mood!
- Houseplants make you smarter and more creative
Given that plants increase the amount of oxygen in your home and remove toxins, they improve your concentration, memory, reaction time, and creativity. Experimental studies show that cognitive performance is better in offices with plants, and simply seeing green leafy plants makes us more creative.
- Houseplants can provide a sense of connectedness
It’s human nature to crave connection with others. Plants remind us that we are sharing this world with more than just other humans, and that we are all in it together. Everything on this planet plays a role in the circle of life. Having a plant in your home can serve as a reminder of our connection with the rest of this wonderful world. When we breathe, we take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Plants do the opposite, by taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, making us the perfect team.
- Houseplants reduce anxiety
Plants make us feel calm. Looking at a living, green plant brings a relaxing sensation that looking at a TV or computer screen will never match. In fact, studies have shown that patients in hospital rooms with plants report that they feel less anxious compared to patients in rooms without plants.
- Houseplants give us a sense of purpose
Taking care of a plant gives us a sense of purpose. Being the reason a living thing is alive and well is beautiful and empowering.
- Houseplants can help you re-create yourself
When you’re ready to make some loving changes in your life to get closer to your best self, consider buying a houseplant when you make those changes. The moment you began loving yourself more by improving your lifestyle can be symbolized by that wonderful plant. Every time you look at it, you’ll be reminded of why you made those changes and how far you’ve come!
- Houseplants purify the air of toxins
In today’s modern world, we are exposed to a number of toxins that deplete our brain health, even in our own homes. The EPA has even stated that indoor air pollution is one of the greatest risks to our health. Cleaning supplies, candles, beauty products, cookware, smoke, and more, release neurotoxins into our air, which can harm our brains. All plants clean the air, but NASA has shown that certain plants are especially effective.
- Houseplants speed up healing
Studies have shown that patients recover more quickly from surgery when their hospital rooms have plants and flowers in them. Patients with plants in their room had lower blood pressure, lower ratings of pain, less anxiety, and less fatigue than patients without plants in their room.
- Houseplants teach us to slow down
Caring for houseplants requires patience. Shortcuts don’t work with plants, just like they don’t work with our own health. When a plant is unwell with shriveled brown leaves, we can’t just paint the leaves green and call it a day. Instead, we ought to look at the whole picture, taking our time and getting to know what amount of sunlight and water the plant needs to thrive. Maybe once we learn how to take care of our houseplants more holistically, we will start taking care of ourselves more holistically, instead of opting for quick fixes.
Our brains are chronically stressed, because we’re stimulated all the time these days. Taking time out of your day to slowly water a houseplant and carefully check its leaves to see how it’s feeling, gives your brain a needed break from the constant stimulation.
- Houseplants reduce the effects of stress
A research study demonstrated that geraniums helped individuals recover faster and more completely from high stress situations. If you consider yourself chronically stressed, something kind you could do for yourself is to make your most stressful environments more calming, by putting houseplants in those rooms.
- Houseplants reduce your number of sick days
Being around plants means you are constantly exposed to natural medicine. A researcher has discovered an airborne antifungal and antibacterial compound called phytoncides, which plants emit and we are able to benefit from if we are near them.
- Houseplants improve your sleep
Quality sleep is crucial for psychological health. There are several reasons indoor plants improve sleep. Houseplants naturally purify the air in your home, so having a few in your bedroom will improve the quality and quantity of your sleep. Simply looking at plants make us feel more calm and less stressed, which will put us in the right mindset before going to bed. To get the most out of them, choose a plant for your bedroom that continues to release oxygen even at night (most plants do not), such as a snake plant.