Updated: Apr 4
Who would have thought that during this pandemic the word “plantito” and “plantita” would suddenly come to life? Just surf through the net and you will see countless videos and articles about plants: how to take care of them, what plant best suits me, and many more plant questions and answers. Like a grass that grows and pops up everywhere and anywhere, the Plantito/ Plantita trend also grew. Everyone suddenly became interested in planting and gardening. Morning news and webinars became filled with plant-related topics. If you are one of those who fell in love with plants and gardening, you are not alone. But have you ever wondered, do plants actually help us stay sane during this pandemic?
According to research, interacting with indoor plants help reduce stress and anxiety (Lee, et al., 2015). In their study, Lee et al. (2015) found that people engaging in gardening have reduced autonomic response which is usually triggered when an individual is stressed. This means that when people interact with plants, there is a reduction in bodily response associated with stress and anxiety. Additionally, Hall and Knuth (2019) reviewed past studies regarding the benefits of plants on one’s mental health. Among the most prominent results were: reduction of depression, anxiety, and stress; increase in happiness; and improvement in self-esteem (Hall & Knuth, 2019). This study points out the many benefits of taking care of a plant. During a time when stress is an outpouring, plants can help to alleviate negative feelings. Plants were also found to have a positive effect on stress by increasing brain activity which is usually reduced due to stress (Hassan, 2018). Hassan and co-authors (2018) said that planting-related activities have an effect on the brain that is comparable to taking anxiety-reducing medication. It is as if plants and gardening are the panaceas to stress and anxiety and the elixirs to improved mental health.
Another group of researchers found that putting plants on the office desk helps enhance the working environment (Toyoda, et al., 2020). In the same research, it was found that plants aided the workers in pausing from their work which helped reduce stress (Toyoda, et al., 2020). The researchers were even bold enough to say that there will be an improvement in the employee’s mental health if they will be allowed to take “nature breaks' ' (Toyoda, et al., 2020). Similarly, Genjo et al. (2019) found that plants do have a relaxing effect and plants help reduce fatigue in the workplace. These two research points out how plants can help in workers’ mental health and functioning. These also emphasize that the benefits of plants extend beyond home life, but also work life.
To date, there is a psychological intervention called “green care” wherein the focus is on the utility of nature as a way of therapy (Cuthbert, et al., 2021). Green care was found to be effective in improving the mental health of young people in America diagnosed with a mental disorder (Nosbusch, 2016). Even so, currently, there is limited research regarding green care, but the existing studies show promising results (Cuthbert, et al., 2021). Since the interest in plants and gardening grew, more research regarding green care is worth it.
With all the information previously mentioned, it is not surprising how gardening suddenly boomed during the pandemic. We all know how stressful the COVID-19 outbreak was and how stressful it still is. By taking care of plants, we can improve our mental health and create an avenue to reconnect with ourselves and with nature. For students stuck in an online class and for workers who remain on a work-from-home basis, now is the time to plant your favorite plant and let them bloom along with your good mental health. Time to turn your environment greener and surround yourself with green buddies. May it be the easy-to-care-for Golden Pothos or the dazzling Mayana, let gardening be one of the activities you do to help boost your mental health and relieve stress. Grab your shovel and your seedlings and plant your way towards healthier mental health; add planting to the list of the things you can do when stressed out.
Cuthbert, S., Kellas, A., & Page, L. (2021). Green care in psychiatry. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 218(2), 73-74. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.2020.166
Genjo, K., Matsumoto, H., Ogata, N., & Nakano, T. (2019). Feasibility study on mental health-care effects of plant installations in office spaces. Japan Architectural Review, 2(3), 376–388. https://doi.org/10.1002/2475-8876.12098
Hall, C. & Knuth, M. (2019). An update of the literature supporting the well-being benefits of plants: A review of the emotional and mental health benefits of plants. Journal of Environmental Horticulture, 37(1), 30-38. https://doi.org/10.24266/0738-2898-37.1.30
Hassan, A., Qibing, C., Tao, J., Bing-Yang, L., Nian, L., Li, S., Tng, L.Y., Li, J.Z., & Ziyue, S.G. (2018). Effects of plant activity on mental stress in young adults. American Society for Horticultural Science, 53, 104-109. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI12447-17
Lee, M.S., Lee, J., Park, B.J., Miyazaki, Y. (2015). Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in young adults: a randomized crossover study. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 34(21). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40101-015-0060-8
Nosbusch, B. (2016). Benefits of green care for youth with a mental health diagnosis. Retrieved from Sophia, the St. Catherine University repository website: https://sophia.stkate.edu/msw_papers/645
Toyoda, M., Yokota, Y., Barnes, M., & Kaneko, M. (2020). Potential of a small indoor plant on the desk for reducing office workers’ stress. American Society for Horticultural Science, 30(1), 55-63. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH04427-19