It’s funny to imagine that something as simple as a houseplant could significantly improve your mood and health, but surprisingly, scientific research indicates that leafy green plants actually have the power to improve overall quality of life.
To get into the science for a minute, houseplants convert the carbon dioxide we exhale into fresh oxygen. This means healthier lungs and cleaner air, but even more amazing is the discovery that houseplants clean volatile organic compounds that can cause cancer – such as benzene and formaldehyde – helping you live a longer life.
Physical health benefits aside, plants also improve overall mood and help with focus, memory, creativity and sociability. If you’re currently scoffing and considering closing this post, just consider the fact that early humans lived in close communion with nature. We’re used to having plants around, so it makes sense that we’ve formed a natural bond with them. For most of human history, plants have constituted a huge part of our environment. It is only in the modern era, which has reduced the amount of green space on the planet, that we’ve gotten used to a stark lack of greenery.
For those of us who live in northern climates, caring for houseplants can be a great way to keep spirits up throughout the long, dark winters. Caring for plants provides a compassionate outlet and a sense that you’re interacting with your environment.
In retirement residences, plants can help to spruce things up and give residents a sense of independence when they are charged with caring for them. All Seniors Care Living Centres in Canada provide the resources for spring and summer gardening clubs, which can be a great source of exercise and pride in the warmer months, but once winter hits, it’s time to bring in the Ficus plants and Peace Lilies!
Plant therapy is actually in keeping with the more involved practice of pet therapy, which is based on the idea that interacting with a living thing that requires love and care bolsters happiness and self-confidence. A plant may not be a puppy, but both plants and puppies brighten up a room without fail.
When winter finally does thaw and dissipate and the barren trees begin to bloom, then gardening season kicks into high-gear. Aside from the obvious pleasure of seeing something you planted from a seed grow into a healthy patch of flowers or vegetables, gardening is shown to have wide-ranging and unexpected health benefits:
Reduced Cortisol – Cortisol (the dreaded stress hormone) is apparently reduced in avid gardeners; this may have something to do with the fact that gardening forces you to engage with your surroundings and get out of your well-worn thought patterns. Harmony with nature probably doesn’t hurt, either.
Reduced Alzheimer’s Risk – Alzheimer’s is an extremely mysterious condition that scientists are still trying to understand. Surprisingly, studies have shown that gardening regularly can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by 36-47 percent.
Brain Health – Since tending to flowers and vegetables requires a combination of endurance, sensory awareness, problem-solving and a slew of other critical functions, it is not surprising that it fosters resilience in the brain. If you happen to be a senior who’s at risk for memory problems, find yourself a patch of soil!
While the symbiotic relationship between plants and humans can seem a bit mystical at times, the evidence speaks for itself: scientific studies confirm that incorporating plants into your life and caring for them has innumerable benefits.