You’ve probably heard the idea that houseplants can improve your health and productivity, but how much of this hype is real? Overall, a robust set of reputable studies suggest that indoor plants can increase mental health and cognitive performance in various ways. These positive effects are closely correlated with those observed by immersing people in natural settings. The great outdoors is good for you—as is the effort to bring a bit of this nature indoors with you.
Education is one of the best ways to get yourself to buy into indoor plants for health and productivity. Houseplants aren’t a cure for everything. Learn what is mostly hype and what it is about houseplants that seems to offer these benefits in study after study. Then, you can choose indoor plants that make the most sense for your home or office, while gaining new insights about how to optimize these spaces for health and productivity.
Productivity and Performance
Being outside—or even just the feeling of being outside—can cultivate that elusive quality of relaxed concentration, of effortless effort, of sustained productivity. Nowadays, office plants are almost universal fixtures or at least highly encouraged among the company’s workforce. This literature review from Psychology Today shows that there are widespread psychological benefits to natural settings and indoor plants. This includes better memory retention, concentration, and creativity, while reducing levels of stress, depression, and cognitive impairment.
The Truth about Plants and Indoor Air Quality
You don’t need to literally recreate a natural setting to get the health benefits of indoor plants—unless you’re trying to improve the indoor air quality. This is one area where the hype doesn’t live up to the science—in part because of a misunderstood NASA study that looked at the effect of plants on air quality in a closed environment like the international space station. Even in modern buildings, there is so much ventilation that you need to fill almost every square foot of space with plants to make a noticeable difference in indoor air quality.
Don’t Overlook Ornamental Value
People like things that look pretty. As part of their literature review on the benefits of houseplants, the Texas A&M Agriculture Extension found multiple studies that looked specifically at the benefits of having flowers in the home and office. Flowers were found to improve mood and reduce the risk of depression by helping people feel more secure and relaxed. You can achieve these benefits by replenishing cut flowers, but there’s a particular joy reserved for cultivating your own flowering houseplants, such as begonias. The blooms may not last forever, but some houseplants, like the prayer plant, have foliage with great ornamental value.
Staying Connected and Grounded
Decorating your home and workspace already provides many of these benefits, but the opportunity to care for houseplants offers its own rewards. It may not be quite the same as tending to an outdoor garden, but there is still something to be said for testing houseplant soil for moisture and pH levels. And don’t be afraid to take a moment and come up with some creative names for your plants. A connection to your indoor plants still won’t fix what’s wrong with your day, but it can soften the emotional consequences. And during times of self-isolation, caring for indoor plants can be a true life-saver.