By: Patricia Yap
Living in a pandemic or not, our mental health should always be a priority. It affects how we think, how we feel, how we interact, how we perform day-to-day activities, and so on. And while there are many ways to take care of one’s mental health, human interaction and socialization are one of the most effective ways to ensure a healthy mind. The current context however, does not allow much of this.
So, in order to continue taking care of our mental health, we can turn to plants. Yes—tiny or big, leafy or smooth, colorful or just green—plants are remarkably bona fide at keeping our mental wellness in check.
To prove this, here are the high five ways plants can help our mental health.
Boosts positive moods and feelings
Generally speaking, researches and studies have found that plants can generate happiness. Keeping plants near helps boost serotonin (a mood regulator) levels, making people feel more relaxed, at ease and less anxious. By promoting these good feelings through the presence of plants, people’s overall mental health leans to a positive.
According to Harvard naturalist Dr. Edward Wilson, we humans have innate connections with nature, and so we unconsciously thrive in environments that have them. In addition to this, the very soil of our plant babies act similarly to antidepressants. Good bacteria in the soil has been proven to actively increase serotonin either by touch or even smell. Perhaps this is why a lot of people find the smell of fresh dirt after rains pleasant and calming.
Even before the pandemic, the personal, familial, work, academic, social and what have you aspects of life can be a cause for stress. Always being under pressure and experiencing chronic stress is definitely not good and can lead to lack of concentration, irritability and anger, and increased risk of developing depression among others. Our physical health is also compromised as increased stress levels correlate with increased pulse rates.
To avoid this, have plants at the ready. A Japanese study found that out of 63 participants that were instructed to take a 3-minute break from their desk jobs when feeling fatigued and stressed to tend to their newly added plants, 27% of them were reported to have lower pulse rates and felt “refreshed” afterwards.
Is unusually therapeutic
A lot of activities are good for our mental health, one of which is plant parenting, or simply put, tending and taking care of plants. Even before the pandemic, lots of people were already considered as plantitos and plantitas, but now we see why these individuals actually enjoy being plant parents.
According to a professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, plants can help individuals in positive healing. He says that by tending to houseplants, humans gain a sense of responsibility and shift their focus on positive emotions that are linked to nurturing these plants. Every one of us probably knows a plantito and plantita (or three), and now we understand more clearly why they love having and taking care of their plants so much.
Encourages motivation and productivity
Numerous studies and experiments have proven the positive effect of nature and the outdoors on our energy and productivity levels. Whenever we feel drained mentally or start losing motivation, plants can help us gain a little bit of our vitality back. From the University of Queensland in Australia, a study observing three workspaces in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands were spruced up with plants. Researchers monitored the perception of air quality, concentration and workplace satisfaction over a period of time. The end result? The presence of plants increased employee productivity by 15%!
So it’s true, just by seeing plants or noticing the first few sprouts and smelling the refreshing minty scent of some species can really do wonders to anyone’s day. On top of this, plants, even the tiniest of them, help purify the air we breathe. When we’re in stuffy environments, it’s harder to get motivated to work and concentrate. So, having even just one plant baby that can help filter the air in our immediate nearby surroundings is good for our mental well-being.
Generates higher self-esteem
Oftentimes one of the effects of declining mental health can be seen in the way we perceive ourselves. People that are having a difficult time mentally would think to themselves that they are someone who’s incompetent, useless, undeserving of love, and so many more negative perceptions that can tank one’s self-esteem.
But during the times we feel we aren’t enough, plants can serve as a form of reassurance. As plant owners and plant parents, whenever we see our house plants thriving under our care, we feel more competent and in control. In a research study conducted at Anglia Ruskin University, groups of people were separated into gardening and non-gardening groups. The gardening group were asked to measure their body image perceptions (physically and mentally) before and after participating in gardening over time. After comparing their test scores to those in the non-gardening group, results showed that gardening helped the gardening group build confidence and self-esteem.
Sometimes people have a hard time seeing their self-worth when everything seems intangible. But through plants, everyone recognizes something tangible to ground and see what good they are actually capable of doing.
Throughout the years, there is no denying that life has been getting harder and harder. Stress and anxiety is almost always present, lack of motivation always creeps in, and sadness and depression never seem to go away. So, remember once more, whether now in a pandemic or in the future, we have to take care of our mental health even in the smallest ways we can.
Now go ahead and get yourself a plant baby. If you have already, let us know how they’ve helped your mental health in the comments!
Photos courtesy of Unsplash and Insider.