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Plants and Mental Health

Nature has a calming effect on many people. Walks in the forest, picking flowers, and tending a garden are all associated with de-stressing, but do green spaces actually affect mental health and why?

Houseplants purify air through photosynthesis. Some plants, such as philodendrons, remove toxins from the air. This improves physical health, which in turn, reduces stress. A 2008 study of patients recovering from surgery showed that patients who had potted plants in their rooms recovered faster, reported less pain and anxiety, and needed less pain medication than patients whose rooms didn’t have plants. The same study states, “Indoor plants make air healthier and provide an optimum indoor environment by ... reducing the quantity of mold spores and airborne germs.” The cleaner air that houseplants create reduces stress and improves people’s overall health.

In addition to the physical health benefits houseplants provide, caring for plants is just fun! Naming them, watching them grow, and caring for plants is a very rewarding process. Growing food means that you can have access to fresh fruits and veggies, and give them to friends, which is also rewarding. Gardens are often used as therapeutic tools for patients with dementia or mental illness. After a group of seniors with dementia started working in a garden, they had better cognitive abilities and fewer aggressive behaviors. Plants also provide sensory stimulation for autistic people, and overall help the well-being of everyone.

However, access to green space is unequal. People living in low-income housing often have little to no access to plants. But spacious yards and gardening are often associated with middle to upper class people, as well as having the time to dedicate to plant care. With all the mental and physical benefits plants have, access to them should be equal for everyone.

By Noemi Gilbert

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