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Green Therapy: The Healing Power of Houseplants on Mental Health

Houseplants aren’t a new concept, but their popularity has surged recently, particularly among millennials. There are now even social media accounts dedicated to plant influencers! Not only are plants enjoyable, but having a houseplant (or a collection of 30) can also enhance both your physical and mental well-being.

Houseplants fill the need to nurture

Many people are choosing not to have children (you do you) for various reasons, yet we still have an innate urge to nurture. Plants can require low-maintenance care, as they can thrive for weeks without constant attention. The act of watering, pruning, and tending to their needs can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Witnessing their growth and flourishing under our care can be incredibly rewarding. In a world that can often feel chaotic and unpredictable, houseplants provide a sense of stability and connection to nature.

As a plant person myself, I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when my plants are thriving. I’ve been waiting for my golden pothos to reach the floor from the top of the bookcase for the past 5 years, and it’s just 6 inches away from its 72-inch goal! I am one proud plant parent.

Houseplants can sharpen attention and increase productivity

Research shows that greenery has a restorative effect and can increase the ability to concentrate. In one study, brain scans revealed only the children who spent time with a real plant (as opposed to a fake plant, photo of a plant, or no plant) showed improved attention and focus. Another study showed that introducing plants into office spaces resulted in a 15% increase in productivity among employees.

Houseplants provide physical health benefits

Numerous studies highlight the positive impact of plants on health. The presence of plants has been associated with enhancing air quality by reducing toxins and boosting oxygen levels. Interacting with plants may lower blood pressure and calm the nervous system, thus reducing stress levels. Plants may also help speed up recovery from an illness, injury, or surgery. Being able to bring these plants indoors makes these benefits more accessible.

Houseplant lovers are part of a community

Plant hashtags trend on social media, there are groups and forums dedicated to sharing tips, and even meetups where plant enthusiasts can swap plants and cuttings. Talking with others about a topic you’re passionate about can build a friendship and cultivate a sense of community.

Soil Stimulates Serotonin

Playing in the dirt can actually boost your mood! Lack of serotonin has been linked to depression and other mental health disorders. Mycobacterium vaccae is a bacteria found in soil. These antidepressant microbes stimulate serotonin production, which can make you feel relaxed and happier.

Greenery overall helps enhance mental health

Have you ever taken a walk in a local nature preserve and immediately felt better afterward? Houseplants, gardening, and even just being in nature enhances positive mental health. Research has repeatedly found that greenery reduces stress symptoms of depression. In fact, there’s even horticultural therapy that uses plant-based activity for healing and rehabilitation.

Overall, plants just make people happy. Spending time with plants is also linked with increased self-esteem and greater life satisfaction.

How to begin a “houseplant life”

If you're new to plants, you might not know where to begin. Plants are not equal, so here are some good options for beginners:

  • golden pothos

  • spider plant

  • snake plant

  • aloe vera

  • jade

  • ZZ plant

If you once tried to get into plants with a succulent but killed it, have no fear. Contrary to popular belief, succulents are not the easiest to maintain. I own approximately 30 plants and find succulents to be the most difficult to care for. I recommend starting with the resilient golden pothos. I've nurtured mine for nearly five years, and it has flourished with minimal effort.

What are you waiting for? Go adopt a plant today!

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