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Why indoor plants are good for your mental health

BY Lauren David

28th Nov 2023 Wellbeing

3 min read

Why indoor plants are good for your mental health
They're not just pretty—science shows that houseplants are good for your mental health, too! Here are eight plants that will boost your mood
Keeping a bit of the outdoors inside is nothing new, but houseplant collections have become a popular social media trend—which means that more people than ever are discovering the comfort and beauty that caring for plants brings.
It’s a feel-good hobby that’s supported by science: Exposure to greenery, whether you have indoor plants, take walks outside or tend to a garden, has been found to have multiple mental-health benefits, such as lowering stress, decreasing feelings of depression, increasing sociability, restoring focus, improving cognitive performance, improving mood and increasing self-esteem.
“One study showed that patients at a hospital who had plants in their room reported less pain, lower blood pressure, less fatigue and less anxiety than patients without plants in their rooms,” says Jenny Seham, a New York-based psychologist. She explains: “Cortisol, the stress hormone, has been shown to lower with plant interaction, reducing fatigue, irritability and blood pressure.”
"Plant care helps us focus on the present moment and provides a feeling of accomplishment"
Research has also shown that having plants and gardening increase productivity and levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for lifting our mood. The theory is that plant care helps us focus on the present moment and provides a feeling of accomplishment, as opposed to dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
Before you fill your space with foliage, consider how you’ll interact with your plants. For instance, are the plants in areas where you spend a lot of time? Can you care for them daily?
If you have a small space or aren’t sure how much time you’re willing to invest in “plant parenting,” start slow. “Just one plant can make a difference; it can engage you by its smell or colour, creating a positive mood response with every interaction,” says Seham.
Ready to grow your indoor garden? Here are eight plants experts recommend for mental health benefits.
Illustration of man relaxing in chair surrounded by houseplants

Snake plant

Snake plants have a striking appearance, with sword-shaped, dark green leaves and often mustard-yellow or white stripes. Also known as “mother-in-law’s-tongue,” the snake plant is ideal for beginners. It’s very easy to care for, thrives in spaces with low sunlight, has visual appeal and filters the air.

Spider plants

Spider plants, with light-green foliage, do well with humidity and medium light. When a spider plant thrives, it will grow new offshoots that can be snipped and potted as a new plant.

Aloe vera

Drought-resistant and easy to grow, “aloe vera is low-maintenance—you can just water it monthly—and it produces a healing gel that you can use straight from the leaf,” says Seham.

Pothos

Pothos is adaptable plant with chartreuse, heart-shaped, waxy leaves. They grow long vines that can trail or hang from a pot and grow downwards, or they can climb and be supported with a trellis to grow upwards.

Lavender

Lavender’s scent has a calming effect, aids in reducing stress, promotes sleep and has anti-inflammatory properties when used in a topical for skin. You can clip and dry the leaves and put them in a bowl or sprinkle them in your bath

Basil

“The experience of growing, picking, and using herbs you’ve grown yourself has a positive impact on your mental health, creating sensory experiences as well as a feeling of accomplishment,” says Seham.
"The experience of growing, picking, and using herbs you’ve grown yourself has a positive impact on your mental health"
Basil is a favourite for its wonderful scent but also as an ingredient in Mediterranean dishes. A 2021 study published in the journal Frontiers in Ageing Neuroscience found eating basil to benefit brain health. Fenchol, a natural compound found in basil and some other plants, may have a protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease.

Lemon balm

This green herb with a light lemony fragrance is part of the mint family and is simple to cultivate. Research suggests that lemon balm tea could help relieve anxiety and improve sleep.

Spearmint

Spearmint is a hardy herb that grows quickly. “It’s great to just smell the leaves for an immediate soothing effect,” says Seham. And spearmint tea is known for its digestive benefits, particularly relieving bloating and nausea.
Remember that while indoor gardening can boost your feelings of wellbeing, help reduce stress and promote relaxation, it’s not, of course, a substitute for a trained mental health professional. Think of greening your indoor space as an enjoyable part of a holistic wellness routine.
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