Plants Improve Your Mental Health

It’s more important than ever to improve your mental health, how do plants do it?

Plants for mental health

Developments in IT and their intrusion on our daily lives can cause a great deal of stress – managing our stress has now become an important issue and one of the ways to resolve this could lie in our interaction with indoor plants. Any budding horticulturist will tell you, spending a few minutes out of your day tending to a plant can greatly improve your mood and lower stress levels. The psychological benefits of horticulture have been well documented by researchers for decades. Having plants in your home space have shown not only to reduce stress, but also boost your mood, improve attention span and even increase pain tolerance.


Study 1 - Plants reduce Physiological and Psychological signs of stress

In a study published in The Journal of Physiological Anthropology in 2015, found that active interaction with indoor plants can reduce physiological and psychological stress compared with mental work.

The study comprised of one group of participants working on a computer task while a second group repotted indoor plants. After the groups completed their tasks, the assignments switched.

The researchers found that the subjects felt more comfortable and relaxed after the task interacting with plants rather than the computer task. They measured the participants stress response to the tasks at hand and found that the plants helped to reduce heart-rate and blood pressure while the computer task had a negative impact on these factors.

The conclusion of this study determined that “individuals could reduce physiological and psychological stress by interacting with plants”. Showing that if we all just spent a little less time on our screens and a little more time with nature we might be a little more relaxed for it on the whole.

Study 2 - Horticultural therapy in a psychiatric in-patient setting

In-patient mental health services have a duty to constantly seek to improve patient experience and to assist in the development of new skills that can aid recovery. Horticultural therapy can be implemented in an economic, social and environmentally sustainable way to achieve those goals.

The Cavell Centre in Peterborough, UK, is one of the main mental health centres in the east of England. They have implemented a horitculture therapy model to help those who are experiencing an acute detiorioration in their mental health. Their in-patient wards have various way to access plants including:

  • plant in your room
  • on-ward gardening (individual or in a group)
  • on-site garden
  • off-site community allotment
  • volunteer community gardening
  • paid gardening.

They found that their patients report that the project helps and supports the wider in-patient community, and describe pride and a sense of achievement when returning from these groups. Meaningful and purposeful goals are beneficial to all involved, although doing things just for the pleasure of it is an often-understated gain. Social interaction takes place in all the pathways – with services, peers or members of the public. This helps to tackle social isolation and increase social inclusion, contributing to the individual’s recovery.

You can read more from this study published in 2017 here.

A survey conducted at four San Francisco Bay Area hospitals in 2010 found that humans generally feel happier and optimistic in surroundings that contain plants. 79% of participants reported feeling more relaxed and calmer than they had felt before, with 19% claiming that they felt “refreshed and stronger” after spending time with nature.

Plants to boost your mental health

bonsai fig tree

Bonsai Tree

Much has been documented over the years about the calming effects of the Bonsai Tree. A study published by the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health in 2017 found that even looking at a bonsai tree can help increase parasympathetic nervous activity as well as positive feelings. Fertilise this plant regularly during the growing season and water thoroughly once a week.

areca palm large

Areca Palm

These are incredibly popular for their easy maintenance and luscious green leaves. Perfect in indirect sunlight and great for your bedroom, these plants capture air impurities and release oxygen, which help ease stress and relieve headaches. Perfect for creating a calming, tropical atmosphere in your bedroom and promoting a good night's sleep. This plant needs bright, indirect sunlight. Water this palm regularly to keep the soil lightly moist in Spring and Summer, whilst water more infrequently in Winter months to allow the soil to dry slightly.

Peace Lily

Peace Lily

This aptly named plant packs a powerful punch. Its’ beautiful white flowers and low maintenance make it an obvious choice for plant enthusiasts. As outlined in a 1989 NASA study, the peace lily can also remove harmful toxins in the air which are linked to causing lethargy, nausea, lack of concentration and stress. Keeping this plant in your home can not only have a positive effect on your health but also provide you with the perfect environment to leave your stresses at the door. This plant benefits from bright, indirect light and make sure to keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy.