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Plant Power: Understanding the Mental & Social Benefits of Plants

Let’s face it: The last two years have been tough. We’ve endured the worst public health crisis in modern history. We experienced lockdowns, economic recessions, and the ongoing threat of the coronavirus.

We could all use a little comfort right now. And to find it, you need to look no further than your local nursery or even your own back door. Now, more than ever, people of all ages, from Millennials to seniors, are discovering the psychological and social benefits of plants.

Nurturing to Be Nurtured

One of the greatest perks of caring for plants is how soothing a hobby it can be. Whether you’re tending a little garden or nurturing your indoor houseplants, there is a Zen-like quality to working the soil and watching the little green forces of nature grow.

In fact, gardening in its myriad forms has become so popular as an antidote to the stress, loneliness, and worry of the pandemic that even young people have become aficionados. For Millennials, in particular, raising little “plant babies” has become more than just a coping mechanism, it’s become a rewarding way of life.

And it’s not difficult to understand why. There’s already vast and growing scientific evidence to show that tending plants is good for you both physically and mentally. Studies show, for example, that indoor plants can reduce stress, increase focus, and even help you recover from illness more quickly.

Mindfulness and Mental Sharpness

Working with plants is an ideal way to practice mindfulness. It’s virtually impossible to ruminate for too long on past pain or future worries when you have these little green lives depending on you. To ensure they survive and thrive, your plants will need your attention right there and then, centering you in the moment as you plant, prune, and nourish your tender buds and green shoots

It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that gardening has been shown to be protective not only from a psychological perspective but also from a cognitive one. In fact, studies show that gardening can help protect you against dementia.

Both the physical activity associated with the act of planting and tending a garden and the mental acuity required to keep that garden alive and growing are precisely the behaviors that can help keep the brain healthy and plastic. You’ll be engaging all the senses, which is a true workout for the brain, and you will be learning as you go (and grow).

Creating an Oasis, Both Inside and Out

The benefits of plants extend beyond the mental and physical rewards, however. There are also important social benefits as well. For instance, tending a garden also means creating a warm and inviting backyard space that can be ideal for social gatherings.

There are few things more soothing than being surrounded by bright and fragrant blooms or more welcoming than a verdant patch of well-loved greenery. And that means that your backyard garden can quickly become the ideal gathering place for the people you love the most.

Best of all, you might choose to transform gardening into an activity that you can share with your dear ones. For instance, you might decide to turn your green space into a communal garden, inviting family, friends, and even the neighbors to participate.

And because you and your fellow horticulturists get to eat what you grow, you’ll have the benefits of physical activity and fresh, healthy, affordable food.

Even if you don’t have a perfect outdoor space for gardening, you and your guests can still benefit from the beauty and serenity of nature inside your home. Populating your interiors with indoor plants can be a terrific way to lend warmth and welcome to your house.

For instance, placing an easy-to-care-for plant in the entryway will make a great first impression for any guest. After all, nothing says “home” quite like a live and obviously well-loved houseplant or potted tree.

Similarly, hanging plants or a tiered plant stand in the bedroom will not only help to freshen the air, but it can infuse the space with the sense of serenity that only nature can provide. And that’s going to turn an ordinary bedroom into a restful haven.

The Takeaway

Plants aren’t just good for welcoming new neighbors or offering support in times of sickness or loss. Plants are also enormously powerful agents for physical and mental health. Tending a garden not only provides beneficial physical activity, but it can also help safeguard against dementia. At the same time, tending plants, whether indoors or outside, can also help reduce stress, elevate mood, and increase mindfulness. Plants can help support social wellbeing. Outdoor gardens can serve as perfect gathering spaces, while well-placed plants in entryways and interior living spaces will create a warm and inviting environment for entertaining. Best of all, gardening with friends and family isn’t just an ideal pastime, it’s also a way to share the many rewards of plants with the ones you love.

Photo Credits

Seedling from pixabay
Living Room Plant from pixabay

Guest Author Bio
Jori Hamilton

Jori Hamilton is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice issues, healthcare, and politics. You can follow her work on twitter @HamiltonJori, and through her portfolio at Writer Jori Hamilton.



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