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  • Carolyn Mish

Growth Mindset: The Link Between Plants and Mental Health

By: Carolyn Mish, Contributing Writer

Throughout history, nature has inspired and enthralled the masses, though experiencing nature and enjoying it is typically reserved for outdoor activities. In a time where the ability to seek out nature is limited, research shows that taking care of and having plants in your personal indoor spaces is beneficial to mental health, air quality, productivity, and even boosts healing.

Gardening itself may seem mundane and even pointless in an age where fake, realistic plants are just a few clicks away, but the benefits are clear. Research conducted at four San Francisco Bay Area hospitals showed that up to 79% of people reported feeling calmer after spending time in a garden. The act of taking care of indoor plants is likely to have a similar effect; nourishing and maintaining a consistent routine to watch your plants flourish can also improve attention span, self-esteem, and responsibility.

By taking care of something other than yourself, you develop healthy habits. Watering and pruning your plants is also a great reminder to practice self-care. When dealing with mental health struggles, it’s vital to maintain basic hygiene, nutrition, and do things that make you happy. All of these tasks can seem daunting, but when you find the energy to take care of the plants in your care, it’s that much easier to take care of yourself.

Currently, work involves blue, invasive screens, and impersonal cubicles. By incorporating inspiring aspects of nature into the places we spend time, you help yourself feel better. Plants can also improve productivity. In 2014, scientists found that in workspaces where plants were abundant, workers reported increased concentration and improved mood. Plants create a vibrant atmosphere, promoting a healthy frame of mind. Subtly decorating your space to include houseplants is a simple way to brighten your workspace and create a positive, lively area to work in.

We have known since the 1980s when NASA studied numerous types of houseplants that houseplants can filter out indoor organic pollutants such as formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene over a 24 hour period. All of these chemicals are found in most indoor environments. Formaldehyde, which is found in paper products, irritates the nose and eyes. Benzene is found in rubber inks and solvents. Trichloroethylene is also found in inks and rubbers and is a carcinogen, a cancer-causing substance. Improved air quality can minimize uncomfortable symptoms associated with being inside for long periods of time, especially important during self-isolation, and the presence of these organic carcinogens is harmful over time. Although these compounds have decreased in use since the 1980s and are unlikely to harm you, plants are a great way to refresh your air. The study proves the power of the houseplants, rather than the impact of the carcinogens.

This data holds up over time, and studies have continually shown that houseplants positively impact ozone concentration in indoor spaces. Additionally, the calming effects of indoor plants have been proven to reduce the amount of time it takes hospitalized patients to recover from surgeries and injuries. This type of horticulture therapy is proven to benefit people with both mental and physical health challenges, and its basic principles can be recreated at home through mindful gardening and plant owning.

Ultimately, while the benefits of keeping houseplants are backed by decades of science, we can also examine the impacts that plants have on mental health and wellness. Plants are a beautiful addition to any space, and they encourage us to stop and enjoy the little things. Taking moments out of your day to relish in nature and what it has to offer can greatly impact a healthy and happy lifestyle.

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