Why you need plants in your life

Without going into complex theories, we could say that humans tend to surround ourselves with things for two main reasons: need and desire. The classification is quite simple and useful, as we have objects that are imperative to be able to live or that facilitate vital processes, while others are related to aesthetic pleasure or the simple desire for possession. I need to have a kitchen at home, but I don't need that porcelain vase, however cute it may be. The vase is a dispensable whim. Some people put plants in the category of those things that we like but are not essential, but the truth is that we need plants in life. Just as we need to sleep and eat, some greenery is essential for our well-being.

Plants: necessity or whim?

Human needs have different spectrums, not everything that is necessary takes care of the physiological part, but we also need to take care of that which is not so easy to observe: mental and emotional health. This is where plants transcend the role of mere aesthetic ornaments to become essential tools for psycho-emotional wellbeing. And there are many serious scientific studies to back up this claim.

It all starts with a study by Charles Hall and Melinda Knuth at Texas A&M University, which was published in the Journal of Environmental Horticulture in 2011 and became very popular in the mass media. This study was responsible for proving the positive effects of indoor plants on anxiety management, stress reduction, attention deficit, as well as improving memory, decreasing depression and increasing feelings of happiness and satisfaction. As if that were not enough, plants also have a positive impact on productivity, creativity, attention, self-esteem and even in the management of post-traumatic stress.

From this point on, studies related to human well-being and plants have continued to multiply and the conclusions can be summarised simply: humans need plants to have a much more balanced and happier life. Some define this tendency as biophilia, meaning that humans have an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other life forms. In fact, this affinity has been harnessed in architecture to create spaces that seek to mimic these natural forms and naturally reduce stress, stimulate creativity and thought. It is not unreasonable, as it has been proven that there is a correlation between the stress response and the complexity of fractals that occur in nature.

To enjoy the benefits of plants you don't have to have a forest to walk through every day, or escape from civilisation every week, just having a plant in your home or office is enough. Studies show that positive plant feedback can come from houseplants, flower bouquets and even photographs. In fact, one experiment confirmed that company employees who were exposed to rose bouquets in their office had a better response to stress than those who had no contact with flowers.

Reasons to have plants in your life

There are those of us who are attracted to plants almost from childhood, but there are just as many who may think they are pretty but need extra motivation to decide to adopt their first specimen. This is not to be criticised, because plants are living beings that require care and some attention, and not everyone has the disposition or the time to do so. Having a plant is a responsibility, but the good news is that there are plants that are very easy to care for (there are even some like Sansevieria that grow bigger and better if you neglect them a little) and the real and tangible benefits of caring for a plant far outweigh the effort and time invested in them.

I am not exaggerating when I say that almost everyone starts with a plant, sometimes they get it as a gift or because they do someone a favour to take care of it, and end up with a branch of the jungle indoors. This may be the case for you, or you may be content with a couple of succulents, but it's impossible to ignore all these benefits:
  • Plants decrease stress and anxiety

I can cite plenty of studies that prove that having plants makes you feel calmer, calmer and more comfortable. First of all the colour and shape of the plant awakens in us an atavistic response, calms and relaxes us. Plants allow us to recover from mental fatigue, reduce blood pressure and caring for them also has a relaxing effect.

Interestingly, people who live further away from nature are more likely to suffer from stress and anxiety, and green areas in residential areas help to improve these responses. Another study found that women are more likely to experience stress when we are away from nature, so we need plants even more (pay attention to this fact, because this is the perfect excuse to have as many plants as we want).

  • Plants improve concentration

Plants have a positive effect on the ability to concentrate, even in people with ADHD (attention deficit disorder). Exposure to nature can even help work on cognitive function, spatial memory and attention. A simple walk in an area with trees or working with plants, even taking short breaks to look at plants can help to improve attention and focus during work or tedious tasks.

These positive effects have been observed in work environments and in pre-school children diagnosed with attention deficits. It seems incredible, but something as simple as looking up from your computer screen to look at your plants can be enough to refresh your mind, improve your focus and allow you to work more efficiently and quickly.

  • Plants combat environmental pollution

It's no secret that air pollution is on the rise and is much more evident in big cities. Not only is it something that affects you in the long term, but you see its ravages on a daily basis on your skin, hair and respiratory system. Pollution is not just an outdoor problem, but indoors it can also be a problem that manifests itself with sudden allergies, breathing problems, eye irritation, phantom headaches and fatigue. This pollution comes from toxic emissions of synthetic materials such as benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and benzene, mould spores, among others. If we add to this the fact that we live in very isolated spaces, without ventilation, to improve energy efficiency in summer or winter, it is the perfect environment to get sick.

It sounds terrifying to think that we breathe in a lot of elements every day that cause short and long term health problems, but plants are there to help us. There are purifying plants, capable of absorbing and processing these harmful substances. If you suffer from allergies or any of these unpleasant symptoms, don't hesitate to get hold of some purifying plants such as Zamioculcas, potos or dracenas.

  • Growing plants is therapeutic

One study found that when a group of elderly women participated in 15 gardening sessions, they improved their stress levels, increased their muscle mass and acquired more manual dexterity than the control group that did not participate in these activities. But the benefits are not only physical, as paying attention to the needs of plants, caring for them and watching them grow provides a sense of accomplishment and purpose that are necessary for recovery from difficult mental and emotional processes.

Caring for plants can do wonders for people suffering from depression, anxiety or dementia. Plants are living, dynamic beings that require some interaction with people but not too much (like a pet, for example), this allows a bond of dependency to be created as well as a fairly easy to manage purpose/responsibility that can be enough to engage the individual in living in the present moment.

  • Plants improve your ability to recover

A person who has gone through surgery, illness or injury can benefit from plants. A 2002 study found that people recovering from various types of surgery who were able to see plants required less painkillers and analgesics than those who did not have access to them.

This may be related to the relaxing effect that nature has on people, decreasing stress and improving immune response. Plants stimulate the production of happy hormones, making you feel more relaxed and confident, so the body can devote all its resources to recovery.

  • Plants improve self-esteem

Decreased self-esteem is typical in children and adolescents, but it is also possible in adults. This is related to many causes, but having plants can improve this mental health indicator. Firstly, growing a plant can show the child or adolescent the transformation they undergo as they grow up, the changes and processes involved in this phenomenon; allowing them to parallel their own life experience.

On the other hand, growing a plant successfully allows you to put your attention on another living thing, which responds positively to the care and attention provided to it. This is a way of offering purpose and achievement, but it is also a means of learning that giving is a way of loving and cherishing yourself. If you are able to care for a plant, make it flourish and keep it alive you are discovering a new talent that will allow you to feel better about yourself.

  • Plants stimulate productivity

Workplaces where there are elements of nature, from a window overlooking a natural setting to indoor plants, tend to improve employee productivity and attentiveness. Natural light and plants are key to creating work environments that relax workers, eliminate stress and stimulate creativity. Seeing plants will make you feel more alive, put you in a better mood and even improve interpersonal relationships between those who share the space.

Having plants in the office lightens the atmosphere, makes it more comfortable and homely, less hostile and more relaxed. Employees will feel more at ease, instead of feeling like they want to run out of there as soon as the clock strikes the clock. Doing a task when you are happy is not the same as doing it when you are not in the mood for it. The relationship is very simple: working in a place with a positive and healthy environment has a direct positive impact on people's ability to produce.

  • Plants make you happier

It sounds like an exaggeration, but the truth is that interacting with nature and plants improves your mood, reduces stress, anger and improves your sense of psychological well-being. They also improve self-esteem, make you feel productive and give you a sense of accomplishment. All these positive effects are immediately reflected in emotions and behaviour.

Connecting to nature by growing houseplants is at first glance too mundane, but these seemingly simple acts have an incredible impact on your overall sense of well-being. There is something meditative about gardening, allowing you to stop for a few minutes a day to water, observe and tend to your plants. This ability to live in the present moment, in the here and now, is key to achieving a sense of personal satisfaction. It is in these little things that plants teach you, in the tiny miracle of an unexpected flower, a new leaf or a new sprout that the true secret of happiness lies.

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About the author
Ame Rodríguez

Dedicated to creating an army of cacti, succulents, poodles and cats to help me conquer the world. In the little free time I have left, I play, write and dance.

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