Feeling the “lockdown blues?” One simple choice may have a SURPRISING effect on your emotional health
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by: Sara Middleton, staff writer | February 12, 2021
(NaturalHealth365) Does having plants in your home actually improve indoor air quality? Frequently-cited NASA-funded research from the late 1980s suggests indoor plants help remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air, such as formaldehyde and benzene. VOCs are potentially harmful compounds found in common household material, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
But it’s worth noting that plants’ air-purifying effects have been mostly tested in controlled laboratory settings. When assessed in real home-like environments, potted plants don’t appear to improve air quality as significantly as one might hope. However, one recent study adds to years of evidence indicating that indoor plants CAN help with stress relief and supporting mental health … so don’t give up on your green thumb just yet.
Indoor plants add much more than color, may affect mental health
A team of researchers from the University of Seville’s School of Agricultural Engineering recently surveyed over 4,200 people from 46 countries. Their goal was to assess the impact of indoor plants and exposure to green spaces on people’s psychological wellbeing during the stressful COVID-19 lockdowns in March and June of 2020.
Here are a few of the key findings from the study:
- Almost 75% of survey respondents said having plants in the home positively influenced their emotional wellbeing
- More than half said they would have actually preferred to have more plants in the home during the lockdown and that they ended up spending more time than usual caring for their plants while they were stuck at home
- Notably, people who reported greater negative emotions were more likely to live in “small-sized houses with minimal natural light and deprived of plants”
Not sure you can invest the time and energy needed to bring more “green” into your home? Don’t worry. The researchers—who published their data in the November 2020 volume of Urban Forestry and Urban Greening — found that having just a few indoor plants placed in strategic positions (e.g., on an outdoor balcony) were preferred to having a high number of plants in the home.
This study only proves correlation, of course, so we’re not able to say that having houseplants will directly improve your mood. But this study is just one of a long list of studies that suggest your plants could be helping you more than you realize (air quality questions notwithstanding).
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Indoor plants may even have THIS shocking effect on your blood pressure
A small 2015 randomized cross-over study from the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that interacting with indoor plants was associated with reduced stress and lowered blood pressure. Amazingly, being around plants also decreased activity in the study subjects’ sympathetic nervous systems.
The sympathetic nervous system gets activated during moments of stress and is responsible for the cortisol-elevating “fight or flight” response.
In 2010, Time magazine also cited a study that showed that cardiac and pulmonary patients who sat in waiting rooms filled with plants reported increased happiness and well-being over the course of the study compared to patients who sat in plant-derived waiting rooms. Talk about a simple update to a clinical setting — or even your loved one’s hospital room — that could make a big impact on healing, health, and recovery!
Stock up on these low-maintenance plants for your home
Need some green inspiration? Here are some favorite low-maintenance houseplants that could fit well into your interior decor:
- Spider plant
- Aloe vera
- English ivy
Sources for this article include: