We are a society of optimizers. We pay for doctors, therapists, nutritionists, and meditation teachers to improve our health and mental well-being. We work with life coaches, read self-help books, and watch educational videos on YouTube to maximize our productivity and unlock our creativity. We even do yoga with goats on our backs to relieve stress and put a smile on our face.
The search for a happier, healthier, more productive, better way of life is a never-ending quest, and we continually compartmentalize and outsource our well-being to experts who claim to have the answers. But no matter how many specialists we see, there is no magic pill to make us happier, reduce our stress, and enhance our lives… but what about a plant?
The Biophilia Hypothesis is a theory suggests that humans are inherently drawn to seek out connections to nature and plants, and it makes sense when you realize that humans have lived in and evolved with nature for nearly seven million years. Only in the last few thousand have we migrated to urban cities, and because our species is not fully adapted for life without nature, our “green isolation” is having a drastic impact on our well-being.
I’m not suggesting that we all move to the jungle to reconnect with our inner Jane or Tarzan to live a better life (although the greener suburbs might be a start), but rather we recognize the positive effects of plants and use them to our advantage. Plants are unsung well-being heroes, and they are silently working behind the scenes to make our lives a little bit better every day. Here is a list of their well-being superpowers:
Plants make people happy
Have you ever looked at a plant and just felt happy? You’re not alone. In a study conducted by the new University of Technology in Sydney, researchers added plants to the office environment to see how their presence impacted employees. They found that the presence of the plants decreased anxiety by 37%, feelings of hostility by 44%, and feelings of depression by 58%. The plants even reduced fatigue by 38%!
Plants promote productivity
Plants can also make us more efficient. In a similar study, experts from the University of Exeter set out to measure the effect plants have on performance and cognition. When the participants had plants within their immediate space, they became more engaged and productivity jumped 15%.
Plants tap into our creativity
According to the theory of Attention Restoration, just by observing nature, humans feel more relaxed and better able to concentrate. To test this hypothesis, researchers from Human Spaces orchestrated a global study of workspace design with 7,600 workers from 16 different countries. They found that work environments that featured plants were linked to 15% higher employee well-being scores as well as a 15% boost in creativity,
Plants help us live longer
Blue Zones are regions around the world where people commonly live past 100 years of age. These unique, and oftentimes remote, communities have many things in common, but one common thread is their connectedness to nature and practice of gardening. Most of us will never experience living in a blue zone, but we can potentially add years to our lives if we surround ourselves with plants. After all, people who garden have a lower risk of chronic illnesses and some doctors have started prescribing walks through nature to as a supplement to medicine. Plants for the win yet again.
As a plant consultant in NYC, I see firsthand the positive impact plants have on my clients. This may be the first time they’ve had to care for another living thing, and oftentimes this responsibility helps them recognize and address their own well-being challenges. The rise of houseplants might seem like a trend, but I’d argue it is our instinctual drive as humans to preserve our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. We can learn a great deal from the wisdom of plants and together they can help us grow more than we ever thought possible. Anybody want to go plant shopping?