Lexington Health Network

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Benefits of Indoor Gardening

Everyday life is stressful enough, from workplace demands to busy schedules with the kids. Add the challenges of spending more time at home, social distancing, and worries about loved ones, and the stress can be overwhelming.

Enter the humble houseplant. Scientists are discovering that indoor plants do more than just look pretty. Taking care of those colorful flowers and lush green leaves can actually be good for your mental and emotional health.

If you’re feeling cooped up and a bit frazzled these days, an indoor garden may help you cope with the stresses of life. Interacting with indoor plants has many benefits, including the following:

1. Reduces Anxiety and Depression

With all the alarming news about COVID-19 these days, it’s no wonder we feel anxious and stressed. We’ve heard it said that gardening is a great stress reliever, and many people rely on gardening to lift their spirits. It turns out that scientific research supports the idea that the garden — indoor as well as outdoor — is indeed a “happy place.”

According to a study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, indoor gardening can relieve stress and anxiety. During the study, one group of subjects worked on a computer task while another group worked on transplanting an indoor plant. By the end of the study, those who had worked with plants felt more relaxed and comfortable than those who had worked at computers. Blood pressure readings also decreased in the subjects who had worked with plants.

Even the dirt itself has a therapeutic effect on moods. Soil contains a bacteria called mycobacterium vaccae (M. vaccae), which scientists have found to increase levels of serotonin — a substance that boosts moods and prevents depression.

You can enjoy the colors and fragrances of your indoor plants and beat the blues, too!

2. Improves Attention Span and Concentration

COVID-19 has forced many of us to work and go to school at home, with little or no change of scenery 24 hours a day. To help you stay focused, you may want to add a few houseplants to your decor.

Research has shown that the presence of indoor plants can improve one’s attention span. In one study, two groups of students worked on the same demanding office task. One group worked in a room that had no plants, while the other group worked in the presence of four plants. The students who worked near the plants performed with less fatigue and better attention. Once again, houseplants can make a positive difference.

3. Promotes Compassion

Houseplants help us develop compassion because they force us to think about the needs of another living thing. During social distancing and quarantine, it’s easy to turn our thoughts inward and become withdrawn. Indoor plants direct our attention away from ourselves because they depend on us to provide sunlight and water.

Some nursing homes encourage residents to care for indoor plants. As they tend to their indoor garden, residents enjoy a renewed sense of purpose and self-worth. This responsibility promotes compassion as it brings back memories of caring for children and families.

You may not be aware of your nurturing abilities until you have an indoor garden. Imagine that you’ve been caring for a beautiful plant and notice one day that its leaves are wilting or turning brown. You would probably ask friends for advice, read gardening websites, and try your best to bring it back to life. The plant’s plight has awakened your sense of compassion, which in turn, relieves feelings of isolation.

In fact, researchers have found that spending time around plants improves relationships with other people — something we can all use as families adjust to working and going to school from home!

Plants to Help You Get Started

If you are new to indoor gardening, you’ll want to try growing some of these plants. Some houseplants need little care and are easy for beginners to grow, including:

  • Snake plant — With long, upright leaves, it just needs water every couple of weeks.
  • Aloe vera — This succulent prefers plenty of sunlight and weekly watering.

Other plants have soothing or refreshing fragrances, such as:

  • Lavender — To enjoy its soothing fragrance, give it bright sunlight but avoid overwatering.
  • Eucalyptus — Give it full sun and water on a regular basis and its fragrance will invigorate your senses.

These relatively low-maintenance plants will add beauty to your home, along with the noted emotional benefits.

Restore Calm in Difficult Times

It’s only natural to feel anxious when we’re being bombarded with uncertainty. A trip to your local garden center may be in order.

Indoor plants can help restore a sense of calm and lift spirits as we go through difficult times. Try adding some plants to your environment and enjoy their therapeutic benefits.