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Is There a Link Between Houseplants and Mental Health?
Yes, there is a link between houseplants and mental health as indicated by the study with young adults. It shows that interacting with indoor plants may reduce their psychological and physiological stress. Is this also true on your part? Remember how you feel after you visit a nature park? For sure, you are refreshed and relaxed. Or have you noticed that when you do gardening, you feel better afterward? Seeing our houseplants become lush and produce babies is already a source of happiness. Why not bring nature into our homes and enjoy its priceless health benefits. So let us discuss one by one the reasons why there is a link between houseplants and mental health.
What is mental health?
Let us define mental health first. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mental health involves our emotional, social, and psychological welfare. It affects our whole being: how we feel, think, and act given a specific stimulus. Our mental health dictates our reaction when we face a particular situation. It applies to managing stress, making decisions, and socializing with other people.
Mental health affects our thoughts, body reactions, behaviors, and emotions. A problem might occur when something is wrong with these four aspects of our personality. What causes these problems? It’s a small world, after all, brought about by the advancement in information technology, such as social media and other apps. Life becomes fast-paced and demanding, and so does its pressure.
Why must we give mental health a priority? It is one of the top problems society faces today despite the progress in science and technology. Conversely, modernization brings the opposite effect. Our busy life causes stress and anxiety, which affects our cognitive functions. Yet, we can maintain our general well-being through the help of our natural environment. So, as a start, why not grow different varieties of popular indoor plants and experience personally the link between houseplants and mental health.
How do houseplants and mental health relate?
Stress affects our brains in many ways. If it becomes a chronic or prolonged problem, it can impair our memory. You would notice that you tend to forget things and make errors in your judgment if you are under stress. Further, mental and emotional tension changes the structure and size of our brain. And it destroys the brain cells themselves. As a result, we are susceptible to mental conditions such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, depression, neurotic behavior, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
We need to manage stress. One way of doing this is to unwind, to take a break. It’s the reason we take holidays or vacations. But, you can only do that once or twice a year. For some people, it may even be less. Remember bringing nature into our home? If we can’t go to the park every day, we can create an indoor garden or an indoor jungle. So we can go back to a relaxing private paradise after a hectic day. Turning our home into a sanctuary gives us the necessary downtime to decompress and destress. Here are four ways we benefit from a link between houseplants and mental health:
1. Indoor plants help maintain sleep quality
Circadian rhythm is a natural process the body goes through in a day. It includes our eating and sleeping patterns. When we are under stress, our circadian rhythm is interrupted. Often we sleep late, then insomnia develops. Sometimes, sleepless nights can go for several days and change our health drastically. Lack of sleep causes depression and mood changes. Further, it affects our memory and retention of information. How can a link between houseplants and mental health help us?
Houseplants have a calming effect
How do houseplants help us sleep? They have a calming effect that makes us relax and sleepy. They purify the air, and this fresh air helps lower our core temperature to a comfortable level, which signals the brain that it is time to bed. Even at night, while we are sleeping, houseplants continue their metabolism: utilize carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. Houseplants known to have these characteristics include Sansevieria, aloe vera, golden pothos, spider plants, and peace lily, to name a few. As a result, the fresh air we breathe induces us to sleep and detoxifies our bodies, specifically our respiratory system and brain.
Indoor plants increase oxygen levels in our body
Fresh air helps us improve our sleep quality by increasing oxygen levels in our blood and brain. Sleep.com’s Ashley Zlatopolsky interviewed Dr. Chelsie Rohrscheib, a sleep specialist and neuroscientis. Dr. Chelsie Rohrscheib said that letting air circulate in the bedroom improves its quality. Good air circulation increases blood oxygen levels which in turn increases sleep quality. She adds that proper breathing results in “a deeper and more refreshing sleep.” It makes us sleep faster and less likely to wake up at night.
House plants are not a “cure-all”
When we maintain our circadian rhythm, we also support our mental health. It shows that our sleep quality translates to our mental health. And our houseplants are nature’s way of making us sleep. But, they are not the “cure-all” solution to our sleeping problems. There are health conditions that need medical help, such as sleep apnea. It is best to consult your doctor when you have a chronic sleep disorder. Yet houseplants and mental health relate to each other in a way that we can get priceless benefits. Houseplants can ease our suffering. Growing them is a therapeutic hobby to lessen our stress and anxiety, and support our mental health.
2. Houseplants increase focus and memory retention
Our brain uses 20% of the oxygen we breathe. So, fresh air aids in our brains’ neurological processes. These processes become the biological basis of our behavior. We can invest in an electrical air purifier to remove toxic substances from our living space. Our bedroom is one of the areas to improve air circulation because we spent from six to eight hours of sleep there. Also, we spend the majority of our waking hours in our workplaces. But, another way to have fresh air in our homes and offices is to invest in houseplants.
Houseplants provide oxygen to improve the functions of every cell in our body. As a result, we will have a sharper mind with greater clarity, so it helps us to focus and keep more information. They also boost our memory retention, so we remember things. It comes in handy if we have reports or data to analyze at work. They level up our work performance and productivity. But the opposite is true when we have low oxygen levels. We may feel confused, dizzy, less coordinated, and blurred vision.
The quality of our sleep also relates to our brain. We process less information if we don’t have enough sleep. So do our reflexes become slow since they get directions from our brain. Houseplants help us become more attentive and alert. Further, green space keeps us calm. So when we are not nervous or anxious, we can think well. All we need to have are some patience and gardening efforts. But we reap the rewards by keeping us fit mentally.
3. House plants prevent a hormonal imbalance
\What are hormones? They are proteins (peptides) or steroids (lipids) produced in the endocrine glands. Our bloodstream carries them to send messages to our nervous system. Hormones are “chemical messengers” that regulate or influence our behavior. When a hormonal imbalance occurs, you may have too much or too little of a particular hormone. Symptoms include anxiety, depression, insomnia, memory loss, confusion, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, and brain fog. What hormones do we need to maintain?
First, there’s the cortisol. This steroid hormone can be both beneficial and detrimental to our health. Here’s the list of benefits it can give us.
- regulates blood pressure
- boost immunity by suppressing inflammation
- helps respond to stress
- coordinates circadian rhythm such as sleep cycle and eating habits
At elevated levels, cortisol causes insomnia and other sleep-related problem. Also, it increases appetite or motivation to eat. How can cortisol imbalance happen? Chronic stress, poor nutrition, and eating disorders result in hormone dysregulation. It results in depression, mental illness, and lower life expectancy.
Another to watch out for are the reproductive hormones: estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone. Their effects differ on different women. Some may not exhibit the symptoms of hormonal changes, but to others, it can cause an impact. And finally, there is the adrenaline. A surge of adrenalin or “adrenaline rush” happens when under stress. It increases blood flow to the brain, heartbeat, and sugar production as a source of energy. But in the case of chronic stress, there’s a continuous adrenaline production. It results in mental health risks due to anxiety, insomnia, and headaches. Green spaces have a calming effect, and houseplants can provide this result.
4. Houseplants provide a venue to connect to groups or communities
Our mental health is in danger if we don’t have a venue to vent our emotions: our worries and frustrations. Or if we don’t have support, whether family or friends, to open up about our thoughts and feelings. One of the coping techniques to manage stress is engaging others. Another is being kind and generous. We remain grounded and avoid overthinking and over-reacting if we practice these values. We feel lightened and happy if we help others with the little things they need.
House plants offer this venue to engage people with common interests. Have you tried joining social media groups or communities for indoor plants? They serve as a support system if we have questions or concerns. Or, if we would like to show off our plant babies for everyone to see, we have a platform to do that. Also, we can assist others if we have information or ideas to share on the platform. Many will react and comment, and it’s the start of a little forum. Truly, a link between houseplants and mental health can be observed through our association with others.
From these groups, we can find friends and may become life-long relationships. So, there’s always someone to message and chat about houseplants, our common interest. Or we can ask how they’ve been to start a conversation if we are feeling lonely and want to talk to someone. Some groups plan events for get-togethers, so we see each other face to face. We can connect with other members because we have a common ground. We have a lot to talk to and share about houseplants. Members of these groups tend to be kind, generous, and helpful. But, we should exercise caution when we go online to protect our privacy and identity.
A link between houseplants and mental health goes side by side. How can houseplants help? We need fresh air, a hobby for relaxation, and green space to calm us down, help us think, and loosen us up. House plants can provide all these and more. With proper exercise, diet, and sleep, houseplants help boost our mental health. They give us a venue to be generous and kind. So, we stay grounded by keeping our values in place when dealing with others and our inner battles. We maintain our happiness and positivity despite the challenges we face. A link between houseplants and mental health resonates with us at a personal level.
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