Experientially, we all know that spending time in nature tends to calm us down, soothe us when we’re stressed, and boost our moods. But it’s not just the endorphins you might get from a trail run or the vitamin D from a sunny stroll. An increasing number of scientific studies are finding that being around and interacting with plants has a quantifiably positive effect on our nervous systems, mindsets and yes, our moods.
We love this trend in research not only because it validates what we already love to do and share, but also because it’s bringing more tools to more people to learn new things, feel more connected, and find more happiness overall. As we’ve said before, there is literally no downside to adding more plants to your life – in either your home or office. Here are a few ways that plants can be therapeutic, from the casual plant person to the professional arena of plant therapy.
The mood-boosting magic of plants
At the risk of being a tad trite (too late, we’re going there), it turns out that the age-old adage of stopping to smell the roses actually holds scientific water (and petals, and thorns and dirt).
In a 2015 study from the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, two groups of subjects were asked to perform one of two tasks: a mental task on a computer or the transplanting of an indoor plant, before switching to do the alternate task. Of the 24-person size group, subjects responded much better to the transplanting than working on a computer (We know. We’re not surprised either.).
According to the study, when subjects worked on the computers, their sympathetic nervous system responses—also known as “fight or flight,” or a stress response—increased over time. In contrast, when subjects worked with the indoor plant, their fight-or-flight responses were suppressed. Not only that, but their blood pressure went down and they had feelings of being comfortable and soothed.
(One note: like a lot of medical studies, this one only included men, all around age 25. Still, despite this homogeneity, we’re plucking out the results as a positive correlation with our favorite thing, nonetheless, and will keep an eye out for more diverse studies.)
A plant a day keeps the doctor away
Some doctors are even prescribing time with plants as a way to reduce anxiety and depression. In 2019, in a city near Manchester, England, the Cornbrook Medical Practice launched a first-of-its-kind program called Prescribe a Plant. By no means are plants a replacement for traditional medical care, but in the case of Cornbrook, they’ve become a wonderful additive component of their practice.
Working in partnership with a nonprofit called Sow the City, the medical team cleared out the backyard behind their building and started giving patients small plants to take home to care for or to bring back and plant in the backyard garden. Once a week, Cornbrook hosts community gardening days, in which patient volunteers can work on the plot together and decide what to plant next.
According to the doctors and at least one patient, having something to care for and a social activity are two of the program’s health-promoting benefits.
“What I found was I can still do a lot of stuff that I used to do on my own [garden], but in a way where I’m not forced to do all the heavy work that I can’t manage because there’s other people around me helping,” one patient said.
But best of all?
“It’s social,” he said. “It’s community. It’s really good.”
How can we help your community improve? Good Earth Plants works with businesses and residents in the southwest. Located in San Diego, Good Earth Plants has been enriching people’s lives with plants for over 30 years. We would love to come and transform your office or home with plants. Drop us a note here and let us know how we can enrich your life.