Why indoor plants offer us more than just aesthetic improvement

It is no secret that the 1970's houseplant trend has well and truly made a comeback over the past year or two. Houseplant sales have been steadily rising with the younger generations carving the path into the leafy interior craze, with #plantsofinstagram even having its own trend. Whether it be peace lillies, cacti, succulents or spider plants, indoor foliage has been taking the nation by storm.


Numerous theories have been proposed on why this sudden demand for indoor plants has occurred such as younger individuals having a lack of outdoor space, wanting a fulfilment of nurturing needs or simply being influenced by social media. Whichever it may be, this plant popularity is actually considerably beneficial for our health and well-being and therefore is a craze that should be here to stay.


Air cleanliness

Indoor air pollution causes over 4 million people worldwide to die prematurely each year. Indoor plants, however, could help to begin significantly reducing this number. Plants considerably improve the indoor air quality though absorbing any airborne toxins, as well as increasing humidity, decreasing levels of CO2 and producing oxygen. Toxins can result from toxic emissions from synthetic building materials, airborne mould, viruses and pollutants with the most commonly occurring being benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene. Things such as wall paints, laminates, computer parts and plastics over time can break down and release some of these toxins into the air. These substances can also be responsible for or contribute to causing health issues such as continual irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, physical fatigue or asthma. Symptom severity of asthma has even been found to be closely linked to the amount of carbon-containing chemicals in indoor air. Heightened levels of CO2 can also result in the exposed individual experiencing a lack of concentration and increased drowsiness.


Indoor plants decompose these airborne toxins into gentle by-products during photosynthesis, storing them in the soil to use for their food at a later date. Therefore, this results in much cleaner, safer air for individuals to inhale, decreasing the risk of harmful airborne toxins entering the body. So, not only are they making your surroundings more visually appealing but a cleaner and safer environment to be in as well.


Healthier mind

Indoor plants have been associated with mood improvements, reduced stress levels, heightened attention span and better productivity. They've been found to promote psychological restoration such as recovery from attentional fatigue and the elevated arousal and negative emotions of stress through promoting positive emotions. Additionally, they can cause suppression of the sympathetic nervous system activity which interrupts the stress process and creates soothed and comfortable feelings. When indoor plants are present, work performance and staff well-being have been shown to improve as well as more positive feelings elicited through interactions with plants compared to computer tasks. One study on University staff also found a 30-60% reduction in feelings of stress, anxiety and low spirits when indoor plants were added to their work environment. The therapeutic value of plants has also been displayed in a study focusing on hospital environments, with patients in a room with indoor plants reporting lower ratings of pain, fatigue and anxiety than patients in the bare control room.


Considering this, having indoor plants close to your work or study space can be a great idea to help reduce stress levels and feel more relaxed and calm when working. In turn this may also improve your overall performance on given tasks, as discussed further next.


Enhanced productivity

Another area indoor plants can benefit us is our levels of efficiency, with their presence being linked to improved performance and productivity in the workplace. One study found an office environment with plants created higher levels of productivity than without, however if there were too many plants present then productivity levels were lowered. Seven plants was found to be the optimal for increased levels of productivity. Similarly, hosting plants in classrooms consistently led to improved performance in spelling, mathematics and science. Therefore, indoor plants evidently have effects further afield than just visual pleasure and can sometimes unconsciously provide cognitive and behavioural benefits. Pretty cool, huh?


Personally, I love having greenery in my living space since it can brighten up a room or bring an otherwise lacklustre area to life. Living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom... You name it and when I have a house there will be a plant there! Learning about all these other potential benefits of indoor plants has made me even more keen to ensure my surroundings, be it work or home, do not go without. Many are also easy to look after, meaning having multiple spread over your household is not a great chore or time consuming task. I have had my trusty Aloe Vera plant for nearly four years now and it has also produced three offspring that are thriving too. Talk about value for money! Cacti and succulents are ideal for minimal fuss needed, being robust and only requiring water around once every two weeks (or even less). Peace lillies, spider plants and snake plants are all also easy to care for, making them ideal when looking for that first plant to add to your home. Top of my wish list for when I have my own place are a cheese plant and a large fern plant, since I think both are great interior staples for livening up any room.


Do you have any indoor plants? If so, which are your favourites and why? Let me know in the comments!

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