I posted a Reel a while back to discuss plants that aren’t hard to kill. I mentioned that I love plants in my caption because they have helped my mental health a lot. And then the amount of DMs I got was insane. People wanted to know more information on how plants help mental health and to what capacity.
I decided to write a short blurb on this subject with studies to back it up so you can make your own judgments. Since I am not a therapist, nor a botanist or psychologist, I am just sharing my experiences and research I have done on my own.
I have listed a few ways plants helped my mental health with accompanying studies.
I am a huge advocate of mindfulness and try to practice it as often as I can. When I take care of my plants, I get lost focusing on keeping my plants healthy and alive. And as someone who has overwatered a cactus, it is essential to focus on my plants’ needs. Tending to them allows me to remain calm as I get lost in trimming their leaves, changing the soil, and even water them.
The Journal of Physiological Anthropology published a study in 2015 about how the interaction with indoor plants affects stress in young adults. The results suggested that “interaction with indoor plants can reduce physiological and psychological stress compared with mental work” (Lee et al. 1). I highly recommend reading this paper if you are interested in learning more and using it as a starting point for your research.
Helps Reduce Stress
I am usually stressed. Work keeps me on my toes, and this move to Boston keeps my head spinning. But when I spend time with my plants, I can my heart rate slow down, reduce my heart rate, and help with mental fatigue. It is honestly why I worked with my plants after work.
In case you want more information on this, the Journal of Health Psychology has an interesting study on how gardening reduces stress. The study found that “gardening and reading each led to decreases in cortisol during the recovery period, but decreases were significantly stronger in the gardening group” (Van Den Berg and Custers 3). Interesting, right?
Not going to lie, I was shocked at this idea when I first thought about it, but it makes total sense. When taken care of properly, plants are beautiful, and looking at them makes me happy even on days where I am so stressed.
In January 2013, the Journal of Food Agriculture and Environment published a study on how a plant’s color affects physiologically and psychologically. It found that a plant’s color can lead to positive effects on a person’s mood. Each color affects the subject’s emotional responses, so different colors were recommended for different situations (Elsadek et al. 1584,1586-1590).
Horticulture Can Provide Therapeutic Value
People always told me that plants could help reduce depression and anxiety symptoms. And honestly, that was the main reason why I started to get plants. I did some research to see if there was some truth on whether plants help mental health, and I bought some to see if there was a difference. While it hasn’t cured my depression, I have noticed that my depression symptoms aren’t as bad. Obviously, there are other links such as eating better, managing triggers, and taking care of myself, but I don’t doubt taking care of my plants has something to do with it. It could be a placebo effect, it could be real, but it is working.
I couldn’t find the original study I read, but this one is titled The Therapeutic Benefits of Horticulture in a Mental Health Service. The authors sought to find how effective horticulture was in a mental health setting. It found that plants help when people are putting in the effort to take care of them. If you aren’t taking care of them, the chances might be that you’re not taking care of yourself.
I would also like to share an article in The Guardian on how plants are being used to treat depression and anxiety. Fascinating read!
Higher Levels of Productivity
Being productive is essential for me on days where I need to get work done. When I heard that plants helped increase productivity, I learned more about the science behind it.
In 2014, ScienceDaily shared an article on why plants in the office make people more productive from the University of Exeter. The team behind the study examined two types of offices: green and lean. They collected data on the “staff’s perceptions of air quality, concentration, and workplace satisfaction, and monitored productivity levels over subsequent months in two large commercial offices in the UK and The Netherlands” (University of Exeter). It turns out that plants in the office “increased workplace satisfaction, self-reported levels of concentration, and perceived air quality” (University of Exeter). Trust me when I say that I highly recommend reading this article to see what else the study found.
I listed the studies with the tips to showcase a few research pieces I read that helped me understand plants and mental health better. I also want to reiterate that I am not a therapist, botanist, or psychologist. These tips are listed as ways that plants have helped my mental health, and I thought you would want to look into whether it would help yours. Note: I would also like to note that many of these studies have small sample sizes, so the chances of it being unusual are high and affect reliability. Please do your own research if you are interested in learning more. I just used these studies as an introduction.
- Lee, Min-Sun et al. “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 vol. 34,1 21. 28 Apr. 2015, doi:10.1186/s40101-015-0060-8
- Parkinson, Sue, et al. “The Therapeutic Benefits of Horticulture in a Mental Health Service.” British Journal of Occupational Therapy, vol. 74, no. 11, Nov. 2011, pp. 525–534, doi:10.4276/030802211X13204135680901.
- Sadek, Mohamed EL, et al. “Human Emotional and Psycho-Physiological Responses to Plant Color Stimul.” Journal of Food Agriculture and Environment, vol. 11, no. 3 & 4, 2013, pp. 1584–91. ResearchGate, www.researchgate.net/publication/287612788_Human_emotional_and_psycho-physiological_responses_to_plant_color_stimuli.
- University of Exeter. “Why plants in the office make us more productive.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 September 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140901090735.htm>.
- Van Den Berg, Agnes E., and Mariëtte H. G. Custers. “Gardening Promotes Neuroendocrine and Affective Restoration from Stress.” Journal of Health Psychology, vol. 16, no. 1, Jan. 2011, pp. 3–11, doi:10.1177/1359105310365577.