More Plants, More Smiles: How Your Favorite Houseplants Can Make You A Happier Person
They're the housemates you never knew you needed
Indoor plants are the friends we never knew we needed.
Homeowners have long appreciated the value of beloved pets in improving the quality of our lives, but these days, many of them are just now discovering how another kind of leafier, flowering housemate also plays a role in keeping us well and happy!
Time and time again, research and anecdotes from homeowners alike agree major benefits of surrounding yourself with plants. Doing so seems to contribute to desirable outcomes like increased productivity and concentration, a brighter mood, deeper sleep, better air quality, and even healthful modes of relaxation. Plus, achieving all this can be inexpensive (which, of course, makes anyone even happier about how you can do so much with so little).
Read on to see how exactly plants work to make us happier people and our recommendations for indoor plants to welcome into your home!
Plants help manage our moods when we're feeling down in the dumps.
Or more specifically, it's surprisingly soil that helps us fight against the blues! As it seems, soil contains small amounts of specific kinds of microbes that encourage our bodies to produce cytokines. You get the most out of this process by handling soil, say when you repot plants or when you aerate them. Skipping the scientific jargon, what plant parents should know about cytokines is that they're basically involved in the following functions:
- Boosting immunity
- Fighting inflammation
- Making our brains produce more serotonin, a.k.a. our body's natural mood stabilizer
- Impacting our brains' arousal/anxiety/alarm responses, and in turn, allowing us to feel more calm and collective rather than on edge and easily bothered/angered/tense
See, plants don't only have positive consequences on our psychological well-being, but on our physical health, too!
Our plant recommendation: English ivy
English ivy isn't only easy to care for, but they're pretty, too! People like to put them high up (on shelves or in hanging wicker baskets, usually) to enhance the natural beauty of its cascading leaves, but they do fine in pots propped up on decorative stands or right on your working desk, too. This plant needs to be watered depending on how dry its soil has become over a couple of days, so you will be finding yourself touching your English ivy's potting mix once in a while to check if it's due for a watering.
Bonus: English ivy is also pretty efficient at taking away mold and spores in the air. In countries with humid climates, these irritants can make the air feel damp and heavy making it difficult to breathe, especially at night at bedtime. The worst of this comes in the summer. For a better night's rest, you might want to think about incorporating a pot or two of English ivy in your bedroom decor.
Plants purify the air by recycling commonly found air born toxic substances in households.
Part of modern living is that we're constantly surrounded by potentially dangerous substances. You don't even need to be exposed to extreme conditions to come face to face with them, because every day household items release some amounts of toxins in the air, including printed papers, flooring/ceiling/upholstery materials, and cleaning and sanitizing agents. The amounts of these air born toxins present in the home are not enough to be life-threatening, but of course, it won't hurt to put in precautionary measures to shield you against them. Several plant species have been found to combat toxins like formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, and carbon monoxide among others.
The rule of thumb is the leafier the plant and the bigger the leaves, the better (bigger leaves means more larger plant surface area, which then means a plant that is much more powerful air purifier).
Our plant recommendation: Philodendron gloriosum
These guys need a lot of space, considering that a leaf from a well-fertilized plant can grow to become way bigger than your face! Plants from the philodendron have become popular pandemic indoor plants mostly because they're easy to style and can be handled by plant parents with average plant care experience. They're hardy plants that aren't too sensitive stress or newbie green thumb mistakes, but they will need fertilizing if you want their leaves to reach their full size potential.
Plants around our work areas make us more productive.
Scientists are still trying to find out the exact link for why work spaces with more living, breathing elements (like plants) make us more focused and productive and less prone to boredom and feelings of burnout. But, what they do know is that there is a proven link between having plants around you while you work, versus keeping your work station plant-free.
Think of indoor living for most of the past 15 months or so has made you feel; you've longed to be outside in nature, to go for a walk in fresh air and to see the natural environment and somehow, you just know this will make you feel better. It's a similar effect when you put an ample amount of plants (even small potted plants work) in your workspace; you're healthier, emotionally, cognitively, and psychologically.
Our plant recommendation: Succulents and cacti, potted or in terrariums
Succulents and cacti are low-maintenance plants for the most part, but that doesn't mean they can be left to their own devices! They still need watering and sunshine, albeit not as much as their leafier and flowering cousins. They do make great additions to your workspace because they're often potted in pebble-soil mixes, and the fact that they don't often shed old leaves/arms makes them a non-messy companion to the person working from home.
Plants around the home help our brains, and eyes, relax.
This calming effect has to do with the color spectrum and color wavelengths. Of all the thousands of colors there are that come in all sorts of hues, shades, and tones, green ones are the friendliest to our eyes and brains. Our eyes see green the most clearly, and because of this, our eyes are at their least strained when perceiving the color green. It's why people who work on computers a lot sometimes add a plant or two in the room; when their eyes need a break from harsh the harsh light of a screen, they follow the 20-20-2o rule: after 20 minutes of screen time, look away and focus on something green for 20 seconds. Repeat this every 20 minutes to combat digital eye strain.
The relaxing benefits of green could also have an evolutionary side to them. As our history as a species tells us, our early human ancestors were hunters or scavengers that made their way through forests and jungles to survive, and if they weren't surrounded by such environments, they would make the long journeys to find them. That's because green in the form of thick foliage signals the presence of food and an abundant water, which meant security, and which ultimately communicated to their brains that we could relax. There's a theory that this reaction was passed down to us over time, something that intimately connects our brains' relaxed states to being surrounded by green.
Our plant recommendation: Yucca plant
When you relax your eyes, you're going to want something that can help you daydream, too! You'll want a plant that transports you to a different place and gets your imagination going. The Yucca plant, which is often thought of a desert plant, packs a lot of personality and makes a big impression with its sturdy branches and sword-shaped leaves. You can get a Yucca plant that's smaller than usual and sits a few feet from the floor, or a larger one, which almost makes it feel like you have an indoor tree at home.
Opening images from Pexels and Unsplash