After considerate time spent indoors, we've come to value the great outdoors more than ever. Proven to help reduce the risk of Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and even premature death, spending time in green space has plenty of benefits for your health. However, it's not just physical – here are seven ways plants can help improve your mental health, too.
They boost your mood
Seeing green can have a serious impact on your mood, according to gardener Andy Sturgeon, who has designed The Mind Garden at this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show – an installation intended to spark conversations around mental health. "Green, the colour of nature, is quite calming for our brains", he explains. "This is because it's at the centre of the colour spectrum". A study from the mental health charity Mind asked participants to go for a walk either in nature or in an indoor shopping mall. Those who went for the 'green walk' reported a 71% decrease in feelings of depression, whereas those in the mall only had a 22% decrease. Surround yourself with green plants, and your mood will inevitably improve.
They reduce stress and anxiety
In The Mind Garden, Andy has used birch trees to tap into Shinrin-yoku, the Japanese art of forest bathing and a form of eco-therapy that has been shown to benefit mental health. "For me, certainly, I've always found being in the garden helpful whenever I was dealing with an issue", says Andy. "It's something I've found useful throughout my life; I suppose it's why I got into gardening". However, you don't necessarily have to spend time with plants outdoors to reap the benefits. Research6 has shown that interacting with indoor plants can reduce stress levels, giving you good reason to green up your house.
They enhance your creativity
As well as helping to boost your mood, spending a few minutes staring at that green plant on your desk before a creative task can also enhance your performance. Try immersing yourself in nature by walking in the park and admiring the springtime blooms for a more significant effect. While it might not turn you into Picasso, spending this time amongst plants is enough to create a significant disconnect from technology, which stimulates your creative juices and aids your problem-solving potential. So if you're facing a challenge at work, remember this: the solution is green.
They improve sleep
As anyone who has struggled with insomnia will tell you, sleep is key to good mental health. Fortunately, plants can help in this department. We spend 90% of our time indoors, where the air is three times more polluted than its alfresco counterpart9 from the likes of dust, cleaning products and wood burners. Since air quality affects sleep, plants are essential in the fight to purify our air. While you'll need a fair few of them to have an impact, plants do remove many harmful pollutants, so keeping one by your bedside can help you keep slumber sound.
They double as self-care reminders
While plants are pretty low maintenance in the grand scheme of dependants, they still require some nurturing to survive. Neglect them, and it'll soon start to show. So if those leaves do begin to brown and wilt because we're struggling to provide five minutes of care here and there, this can act as a visual prompt for us to reassess our lifestyles and slow things down. "I studied indoor plants originally, and you see this most frequently when someone has a plant on their desk at work," says Andy. "When someone looks after a plant, it helps them see the connection between themselves and the wider world."
They help alleviate climate anxiety
It's no secret that our planet is in danger, but rewilding projects, biophilic design and green urban infrastructures are just some of the solutions being proposed. Each involves introducing more plants into our lives, so their presence can help give a feeling of security when we spot them. "We've been paving over our gardens for years now, and people don't realise that they are harming themselves and the environment because of the value plants offer", says Andy. "However, it's quite easy to grow plants anywhere, whether a tiny courtyard, balcony or bathroom".
They create a sense of achievement
Aside from the obvious aesthetic benefits, all the digging, planting and pruning that comes with gardening can provide a real sense of achievement. After all, it's pretty satisfying seeing your hard work come to fruition as those flowers begin to bloom. Research has shown that feeling a sense of accomplishment is key to positive psychology, so ensure you savour your horticultural success.
To work with Andy or for more recommendations, please contact your lifestyle manager.