Besides looking good, indoor plants can also improve mental health

For those of us without access to green open spaces outside, house plants are an affordable, stylish way to enhance nature. In addition to looking good, indoor houseplants have several other benefits, the biggest of which is improving mental health. The good news is, you don’t have to own an ornamental plant to experience the benefits.

One in eight UK households do not have access to a garden. Younger people and those from ethnic minority backgrounds are least likely to have a garden at home.

Lack of access to nature can affect health, which is linked to symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as other health conditions including asthma, cardiovascular disease and weakened immune systems. For many of us, house plants are an important link to nature.

Although there is no research that definitively explains the specific benefits of houseplants for mental health, many studies have shown the wide range of benefits of green spaces and gardening for mental health. For example, one study found that people who gardened daily had better well-being and lower stress levels than those who did not garden daily.

Gardening reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety and increases positive emotions such as enjoying cycling, walking and eating out. Many of these benefits probably apply to houseplants as well.

A recent analysis of 42 studies found that simply being around indoor plants can improve mental and physical health. This experiment compared participants who performed different activities indoors, both with and without plants.

With plants, performance is better in cognitive tasks that require attention, memory is improved, they are more resistant to pain when combined with cold water and ice temperatures, and physiological stress levels are reduced. Interestingly, the aesthetic appearance of the plant is also important. Other studies have shown that people respond more positively to green plants with round and thick leaves.

However, most of these studies have focused only on plant presence. From research on the benefits of gardening, we can hypothesize that caring for houseplants will provide more emotional benefits, such as personal pride and social relationships, satisfaction, appreciation, emotional resilience in times of stress, and even helping with the recovery of past trauma.

good for you

There are many other reasons why houseplants are good for you.

Plants can remove pollutants such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide (from nearby traffic), fine particulate matter (from dust), and volatile organic compounds (from air fresheners, cooking, and cleaning). Indoor air quality is very important for people who spend most of their time indoors.

High concentrations of carbon dioxide can reduce cognitive performance, such as concentration and memory, when exposed to indoor pollutants for long periods of time. Also, chronic exposure to pollutants can cause long-term health problems, ranging from mild eye or throat irritation to respiratory problems and cancer.

However, pollutant removal significantly requires a large number of plants in a very bright room. This may not be realistic for many. If you want to try it, you can choose broad-leaved plants, such as the Indian rubber tree (Ficus elastic) or ivory (Epipremum aureum)

A young woman wearing gardening gloves uses a spray bottle to water her houseplants.
Ornamental plants are also beneficial for other aspects of health.

In theory, plants can also help increase humidity in the home. The air in most buildings is very dry. Maintaining optimal humidity can prevent the spread of viruses, fungal growth, and dry eye, skin, and nose conditions. Although it also depends on other conditions in the room, such as area, light and ventilation, some plants have excellent advantages for increasing humidity, e.g. English ivy (Hedera helix), ivory (Epipremum aureum) and peace lily (Spathiphyllum)

keep learning

You don’t need any special gardening skills to enjoy success with houseplants. Gardening is a process of learning from mistakes, even the most experienced gardener can make mistakes. Not all plants will thrive in all locations, and some may be difficult to deal with insect swarms, unable to adapt to light and water conditions, and die. Try not to get hung up on these obstacles. You may be able to get back to experimenting with different plant species as you continue to learn your botanical knowledge.

Each plant has different needs, so look for plants that are suitable for the conditions you live in. If you want plants that can grow well even if neglected, you can choose plants suitable for beginners, such as spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum), living room palm (Chamaedorea elegans), or any plant in the cactus and succulent family, including zebra cactus (Haworthia) or jade plant (Crassula ovata)

Growing herbs can be an affordable and useful first step for beginners. You can also try apps that can make plant care easier for you, offering tips, reminders, and a forum to ask questions.

Having ornamental plants can provide many health benefits, especially mental health. Gardening or gardening can also be a hobby that will continue to teach you new lessons, encourage self-expression – by choosing and caring for plants – and provide real satisfaction.

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