Written by Sarah Loker
There has been a recent dramatic increase of interest, even perhaps a trend, towards keeping and tending for house plants. One reason is that we are fast becoming an urban species, with more of our existence spent indoors than ever before. Fewer people have gardens or access to outdoor green spaces, which insulates us from nature, disconnecting us from the natural world.
Even though we are more disconnected from nature than ever before, we still possess a deep relationship with nature that is essential for our health and wellbeing. The term ‘biophilia’, or the ‘love of nature’, encapsulates this innate connection humans have with the natural world. And the recent rise in biophilic design - designing buildings, spaces and living environments with this love of nature at the forefront - highlights our deep-rooted need to connect with and surround ourselves with nature for human wellbeing in this urbanised, homogenous modern world.
House plants are a form of biophilic design - when we bring plants into our indoor spaces, we allow nature to inhabit our non-wild environments, putting nature at the forefront. Although most people keep house plants for aesthetic reasons - to make the space look more appealing - bringing nature indoors benefits our health and well-being in a variety of ways. Scientific studies have repeatedly illustrated the positive effects to our health from exposure to plants and nature - from increasing recovery time after surgery, increasing cognitive functioning and mental focus, to increasing self-esteem and confidence. Keep reading to discover some of the healing powers of house plants…
Reconnect with nature
90% of the UK population now live in cities, and this statistic is being reflected around the world. With this increased urbanisation, we have strayed further and further away from nature, making us disconnected with natural systems. At the same time as this increase in urbanisation, there has also been an increase in physical and mental health issues and concerns. Bringing the outside in through the use of plants and greenery indoors is a wonderful way to rekindle this connection between humanity and nature, and this connection is vital for our own health and the health of the planet as a whole - by increasing biodiversity and our appreciation of nature, we are more motivated to act in a sustainable way, with the natural world at the forefront of our minds.
Boost mood and reduce stress
It has been proven that the colour green calms us down, reducing depression and feelings of anger. When we consider the Biophilia hypothesis, which states that we feel positive effects from exposure to nature, originating in the biological bond between humans and the natural world, this makes complete sense. Research has found that offices and working spaces with elements of greenery and nature see a 15% increase in employee wellbeing. Direct visual contact with plants has also been shown to decrease heart rate and blood pressure.
Another reason that the colour green is soothing to us is because of the way our eyes and brains have evolved and developed to translate waves of light into colour - humans are trichromats, meaning we perceive three primary colours: blue, green and red. The human eye can detect light in the wavelengths of 400-700 nanometers, a range known as the visible spectrum. Red, green and blue colours all have a different wavelength, with blue at the lowest (400 nanometers) and red at the highest (700 nanometers). Green sits in the middle of the visible spectrum (around 555 nanometers), and this is where our wavelength perception is at its best. This means green is the easiest colour for our eyes to see, with our eyes at the peak of their perception for this tone. With less strain to perceive green, our nervous system can relax which ultimately leaves us feeling calmer and less stressed.
Improve healing recovery and reduce pain
Looking at and being around plants and flowers may speed up recovery from illness, injury or surgery - a 2002 study found that people recuperating from surgery who had houseplants in their recovery room needed less pain medication and had shorter hospital stays than people who did not have any greenery in their hospital room.
Plants also improve the functioning of our immune systems, as they help to increase natural killer cells in the body. These are white blood cells that play a vital role in fighting off infections. Studies have found that people who regularly immersed themselves in nature had a 20% higher level of natural killer cells in their body.
Feel these benefits first hand in our upcoming workshop - Plant Repotting Party! In this workshop you will learn all about repotting and propagating plants - both indoor and outdoor - and how to keep your plant pals healthy and thriving. Help us re-pot and refresh The Studio’s jungle, and feel free to bring along your own plants in need of some tender loving care. Taking place Saturday 8th July at The Studio, Bartlow - £10 / FREE for The Studio Ultimate Members. Book on by heading to the ‘Workshops & Events’ section of our website.
House Plants by Mike Maunder (2022) - p15, p8-9, p10, p91, p92
Adaptive Effects of Seeing Green Environment on Psychophysiological Parameters When Walking or Running, Briki et al (2019)