Nov, 2020 - By Aditi Rathi
There has been a surge in popularity of plants in indoor areas. While taking a quick scroll through social media we will find the feed loaded with beautiful interiors inspired by greenery. Also, several social media influencers are sitting in between a lush environment with hanging plants, leafy vines, spunky succulents, and trees in every corner of their room. This obsession with greenery indoors has also led to several online plant subscription services and plant-based podcasts which help to maintain these plants.
Well, this popularity of houseplants has a reason; they improve not only the air quality but also an individual’s physical and mental well-being in several ways. Also, these perks have long existed before the social media trend. Humankind is yet to understand how houseplants can help improve our daily lives. Here, researchers and horticulture experts explain how indoor plants can aid our lives.
Due to the increasing levels of pollution, an individual is likely to encounter its harmful effects every day in dense cities. It even has some serious effects on our skin, hair, and the air we breathe. Moreover, we do not only come across pollution outside but also at our workplace and home where we spend most of our time.
Usually, people working in large commercial buildings experience a syndrome called 'Sick Building' which is used to describe the symptoms of pollution such as irritation of the eyes, throat, and nose, sudden allergies, dizziness, headache, respiratory and sinus congestion, and even some nervous system disorders. It is hard to pinpoint one cause of indoor air pollution since there are a lot of them. Toxic emissions from airborne mold, pollutants, synthetic building materials, viruses, rubber, laminates, wall paints making a building more airtight leading to reduced air circulation, etc. all contribute to indoor air pollution. As a result, these commercial buildings use electronic air purifiers which also contribute to air pollution since some of them convert water and oxygen molecules into hydroxyl and ozone resulting in more bizarre conditions. Indoor plants act as heroes in such cases and purify the indoor air without any side effects.
Green environment provides a respite to our respiratory system from various issues that one might experience while breathing. In the same way, surrounding ourselves in our homes with plants can help with better intake of oxygen and purified air. But, one must take care of these indoor plants by keeping their leaves clean and free of dust, and occasionally exposed them to the sun in order to help them recharge. NASA's Clean Air Study of 1989 what's the first study to support phytoremediation, a term used for plants scrubbing air contaminants.
A fan of indoor greens already? Here are more such reasons.
Apart from adding color and liveliness to indoor spaces, plants also change the environment's physical aspect in several pleasant ways. Plants increase the relative humidity indoors, add to the beauty of the room, moderate the room temperature, and reduce noise. Understandably we might consider filling a space with furniture and accessories but we should also take some time to think about how we want to feel in that space and the best way to make it more comfortable and achieve that vibe is to invest in indoor plants.
Indoor plants can also do wonders for our mental health. In a study, 28 new plants were placed in common areas of a lung and heart rehab centers in Norway and their patients reported an increase in their well-being after four weeks compared to those patients who were not surrounded by greenery. John Beirne, a horticulture therapy instructor at New York Botanical Garden says that we have evolved on earth surrounded by trees and plants and it is no wonder that they make our soul and body feel better.
Researchers have also said that there is no better place to perform meditation or yoga than a green surrounding since a green space can reduce discomfort and prevent toxins from entering our body. It soothes the aura, calms our mind, and results in peaceful and healthy well-being.
A study revealed that residents of an assisted-living facility, when asked to pot plants and learn how to take care of them at home, experienced an improved quality of life. The reason behind this was either companionship the people felt with their plants or a sense of accomplishment they experienced while taking care of them. Gwenn Fried of New York University said that when an individual takes ownership by doing something themselves, they feel some sort of accomplishment that brings them joy.
In another study, around 23 participants were provided with a photograph of a plant, a real plant, a fake plant, or no plant at all. After evaluating brain scans of these participants, researchers found that students who studied in classrooms with real plants were more attentive and could concentrate better compared to students in other groups.
Sharp attention and a sense of accomplishment, what else do we need to build our confidence?
A study found that plants in office spaces or home can make us feel comfortable and stress-free. The researchers gave two different tasks to participants: one to repot a plant and the other to complete a short computer based task. After each task, they measured the biological factors that were associated with stress such as blood pressure and heart rate. The results showed that gardening and indoor plants lowered the stress response in participants, whereas, the computer task caused a rise in blood pressure and heart rate of the participants even after being well accustomed to computerized work. Therefore, they concluded that working with plants can reduce both psychological and physiological stress.
Potting plants provides an individual with an opportunity to forget about things and focus on the present time and take care of a natural being. New gardeners can start with succulents or philodendrons if lesser sunlight enters the room.
In a study by researchers from the University of Exeter, when an office was provided with plants, the productivity of employees increased by 15%. In another study published in the journal of Environmental Psychology, college students who were provided with plants performed well in a cognitive task and had a longer attention span compared to those who worked in the absence of plants. The results of these studies showed that plants may help in boosting our productivity at work or even at home as most of us have been working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A bromeliad, a flowering plant species, may turn out to be the best cubicle-mate ever.
Horticulture therapy is practiced by using plants for a well-organized recovery and wellness treatment in the presence of professionals. This is done to achieve certain goals and help an individual overcome problems, obstacles, and difficulties in their lives. Therapy through plants can also be used for psychological problems, vocational struggles, or physical issues.
A close relationship with plants can even help an individual to recover from an injury or illness quicker. A surrounding with plants helps in creating a sort of natural sanctuary in which one can feel protected and safe. A study by the Kansas State University found that patients who had plants in their room required lesser pain medication, had less fatigue and anxiety, and also lowered blood pressure and heart rate while recovering from surgery compared to those patients who did not have any sort of greenery in their rooms.
Apart from psychological healing, plants also provide physical healing benefits such as aloe vera is used to heal some skin irritations and sunburn.
For a long time, we have been unaware of the benefits and impact of indoor plants. Even NASA chose to set up houseplants on space stations to filter air. We need to understand how we can contribute to our environment just by setting up some houseplants. In fact, it is not only a contribution to the environment but to our lives in promoting healthy living. These are the reasons why people living in highly polluted cities are opting for a green indoor environment for their better health.
The bottom line is that having plants in our offices or homes can be the best source of pleasure. It can help in relieving stress, boosting our productivity, creativity, and focus, and also promote recovery. By sharing our living spaces with air-purifying plants (all plants purify the air) can make us a healthy person. We are just a step away from improving our quality of life and breathing non-toxic air at home. Flowering plants can add a beautiful touch to the home or workplace but we must not forget to take care of those who are taking care of us.