In this techno-centric Age of Aquarius, it’s increasingly challenging to pull ourselves away from our screens and reconnect with the natural world. And if you’re like us here at Desk Plants, your daydreams often involve thoughts of being outside. Usually surrounded by dogs.
Most people in America spend more than 85% of their life indoors. That’s a ton, right?! We typically work inside, eat inside, socialize inside, and sleep inside. While much of that is unavoidable, our modern lifestyles have a significant influence on our mental wellbeing.
Yet for those busy days when we are stuck inside, we can still reap the benefits of nature by bringing nature to us in the form of indoor plants.
A growing number of researchers are now investigating the physiological and psychological effects of interacting with plants, with evidence for the mental health benefits of plants quickly propagating. Scientific studies have long established a strong connection between experiencing nature and positive human well-being. The famous 1989 NASA study revealed that certain plants can remove up to 87% of air borne toxins and indoor pollutants, such as formaldehyde, benzene, and acetone, and research shows that air pollution is linked to poor mental health.
Mental illness is extremely common in the United States. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that in 2018, approximately 19.1 percent of U.S. adults (47.6 million people) experienced mental illness. That’s nearly one in five people age 18 and older. The most common psychological disorders among U.S. adults are Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Affective Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
While traditional forms of treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy and medication are still widely used, doctors across the U.S. and UK are increasingly doling out “nature prescriptions” to treat a range of afflictions, from high blood pressure to anxiety and depression.
Scientific studies show that the presence of indoor plants is linked to a wide range of psychological and physiological benefits, including reduced cortisol (the stress hormone) levels, lower blood pressure, enhanced memory and cognition, and a greater ability to concentrate leading to higher productivity. They can boost our mood, calm our mind, and even improve the quality of our sleep.
A study by the University of Exeter found that when plants were placed in a previously barren office, employee productivity rose by 15 percent! Kenneth Freeman, an innovation expert who was involved in the study remarked, “We know from previous studies that plants can lower physiological stress, increase attention span and improve well-being. But this is the first long term experiment carried out in a real-life situation which shows that bringing plants into offices can improve well-being and make people feel happier at work.” All the more reason to include more plant life in your work space.
Another study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that college students who were tested with demanding cognitive tasks in an office with greenery had a longer attention span than those in an office devoid of plants. They also experienced a significant drop in blood pressure and other physical stress symptoms, suggesting that indoor plants, “reduced physiological and psychological stress, especially in comparison to mental tasks performed using technology.”
Nature therapy, also referred to as ecotherapy, is a growing field of nature-based therapeutic approaches to healing the body and mind. The practice stems from a psychological theory called Biophilia, which says that humans are genetically and instinctively connected to plants and other forms of nature. That might seem like a no-brainer to many of us, yet we often neglect our nature-related needs on a daily basis.
The simple act of tending to plants can provide relief from the stressors of daily life, as well as help to fill a gap of traditional treatment methods for more chronic psychological illnesses. Even the soil itself has physiological healing properties, as it contains microbes dubbed “outdoorphins” (M. vaccae, for you science-minded folks), which serves as a natural antidepressant.
While it’s extremely important to consult a medical professional for addressing our psychological needs, it’s encouraging to know that there are steps that we can take to make our environment better support our mental health. Desk Plants is dedicated to providing plants that are proven to improve our moods, reduce the negative effects of stress, enhance cognition, filter out airborne toxins, and increase overall psychological well being.
So the next time you add another plant friend to your indoor jungle, know that you’re also giving yourself some well-deserved, mental health love and care.