Greening your space for your own sanity
Greening your space for your own sanity: Indoor plants have become a bit of a fad in recent years and one that has unsurprisingly accelerated since the outbreak of the pandemic. Beyond their aesthetic contribution to the inside of your home or office space, having indoor plants can actually offer a whole lot of benefits to your mental health and wellbeing. From calming you down to keeping you focused, nurturing a little indoor forest might help you better cope with the stressors that exist beyond your four walls.
A small reminder that nature exists: Introducing just a few plants to your room or office space can help activate some of the same kinds of stress relief mechanisms that are triggered when we’re outdoors and in close proximity to nature. Exposure to nature and green spaces have long been linked to stress relief. Some studies have even shown that brief exposure to green spaces can lead to significant improvements in our attention and cognition. The idea behind owning indoor plants and flowers, especially when access to the outdoors (and here in Egypt, to public green spaces) is limited, helps recreate some of these therapeutic benefits on a smaller scale.
This is especially helpful when we’re spending a lot of time indoors: In our increasingly urban and tech-driven world, the amount of time we spend indoors is striking. According to an oft-cited statistic, in some parts of the world people can spend up to 85% of their lives indoors — and that was well before lockdowns and WFH ever became part of the fabric of daily life.
During lockdowns plants offered people much needed relief: In a 2021 study that polled some 4.2k mostly urban-dwellers around the world about coping with stress during covid, some 88% of plant owners attributed emotional benefits and an improved outlook on the pandemic to the presence of their plants. In contrast, those without any plants reported experiencing negative emotions more frequently than those who did.
And why might that be the case? There are several explanations for this. One study suggests that natural environments can reduce depressive symptoms in people by some 20-30%. But one of the most recurring findings in the academic literature is of a link between green spaces and stress relief.
Want some more practical benefits to indoor plants? How about creativity: In one report (pdf) into the benefits of biophilic design, people working in spaces that contain natural elements like daylight and live plants reported creativity levels some 15% higher than those who did not have access to any kind of natural stimulation. A separate study (pdf) has also linked young professionals’ access to nature and landscape plants in particular to increased creativity.
Just don’t expect them to give you cleaner air: Yes, like other plants, house plants suck up carbon dioxide and release oxygen back out into the air and it is true that some may be better at purifying the air of certain toxins than others. But the problem is that the effect a few plants in your home will have on air quality is negligible, despite what previous studies might have indicated. This is because most studies in the past have observed air purifying qualities of plants in strict laboratory conditions rather than apartments where windows, furniture and unsealed spaces interfere with the process. More importantly, for any meaningful air purification to take place you would need an exorbitant amount of plants (about 10 plants per square foot) —- which is a little unrealistic, even for the most committed “plant parent” out there.