It’s official! Our houseplants are our good for us! As if we needed more of an excuse to be plant moms, a review of plant and mental health studies has found that there are literally tons of reasons why being around nature and having it in our homes and workspaces is important.
Hall and Knuth’s paper, A Review of the Emotional and Mental Health Benefits of Plants found that reduced anxiety and stress, attention deficit recovery, decreased depression, enhanced memory retention, greater happiness and life satisfaction, mitigation of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), increased creativity and enhanced productivity and attention were all benefits of being around green spaces and having greenery in our homes!
Anxiety and Stress reduction
It turns out that living somewhere green or near a green space can have a major impact on our stress levels and mental wellbeing! When we spend time in open green spaces, our mental fatigue is reduced, we improve our concentration levels and we recover from fatigue better. The more access one has to greenery nearby also reduces psychological distress, depression symptoms, clinical anxiety, and mood disorders in adults.
There’s even a term for this phenomenon, ‘stress recovery theory’. It’s the benefits that individuals can reap from immersing themselves in nature, which can include decreased anxiety, lower heart rates, skin conductance recovery, lower concentrates of cortisol, and positive changes in nerve activity. There have even been studies carried out in hospitals that have shown that exposure to real plants or even posters of plants, resulted in lower levels of experienced stress.
There’s also been studies done about residential areas and how having green spaces like parks or allotments nearby has a positive overall effect on mental health in the area, as opposed to higher levels of distress in urban areas without green space. And apparently, being away from nature has more of an affect on women’s stress levels than it does men’s. Women who lived more than 1 km away from green spaces reported higher stress levels and perceived poorer health and quality of life than those who lived near of green spaces.
Plants in the workplace
Office settings are increasingly finding greenery to be essential also, not just in our homes (although the two have become rather merged these days). When roses were placed in an office space, workers had significantly decreased heart rate variability than those who weren’t exposed to the roses. Another study saw greenery added to a windowless workplace and recorded participants' blood pressure and emotions while they completed timed computer tasks. The participants with plants were more productive (12% quicker reaction time on the computer task) and less stressed (systolic blood pressure readings lowered by one to four units).
So not only do they relax us more in the workplace, but they also make us more productive! They can enhance our attention capacity, lower our stress levels and give perceived higher job satisfaction!
Reduction in depression
Humans have an innate desire to connect with things and the connection made between humans and nature is called biophilia. Plants are beginning to show their power and are even being used as part of interventions for clinical depression. Garden walking and reflective journaling were used and found that they decreased depression scores in older adults.
Their effect on humans is beginning to make waves in healthcare settings, workplaces and even in architectural design to incorporate more overall life satisfaction. The ‘biofilic workspace’ is a place that prioritises ‘views of nature and daylight’ which can result in higher productivity and attention with employees.
‘Workers in offices with poor light quality and views used more sick leave hours and this effect contributes as much as 6.5% to sick leave use. Moisture released into the air by plants helps with a dry atmosphere, reducing headaches and improving concentration. Visible greenery, both indoors and out, reduces stress and increases the ability to concentrate. In one such concentration test, employees who had a view of plants completed the test 19% faster than employees in a room without a view of plants. Offices in the Netherlands and Great Britain experienced a 15% increase in worker productivity when plants were included in office space.’
Time to purchase some plants for the home office we think!