HealthMental Health

How Houseplants Help Millennials Struggling With Their Mental Health

Having a collection of houseplants hasn’t officially been marketed under the millennial umbrella of self-care, but caring for plants is actually one of the most traditional and radical ways to boost self-love and mental and physical wellness.

Gardening’s many therapeutic benefits for mental health have been medically recognized since the 19th century and documented since ancient times. Research shows even brief exposure to natural elements and plant greenery can help hospital patients with their recovery. 

“Let’s be clear,” says Clare Cooper Marcus, an emeritus professor in landscape architecture at the University of California, Berkeley to The Scientific American. “Spending time interacting with nature in a well-designed garden won’t cure your cancer or heal a badly burned leg. But there is good evidence it can reduce your levels of pain and stress—and, by doing that, boost your immune system in ways that allow your own body and other treatments to help you heal.”

Now, a growing number of health professionals and rehabilitation centers incorporate ‘garden therapy’ into their comprehensive treatment plans. 

Millennials all over the world, including yours truly, are increasingly obsessing over finding our favorite plants and posting them on our Instagram stories and the endless Facebook groups for ‘Houseplant Hobbyists.’ 

What can I say? Spending time with plants makes us happy in a messed up world, and there’s evidence to support what we’ve always intuitively known. Gardening is good for us whether it’s indoors or out. Houseplants can actually help us with our personal happiness. 

How? Here are five ways houseplants can enhance our holistic health: 

1. Spending time with soil elevates our mood.

It may sound a bit hokey, but there’s legitimate science to back this up.

Thanks to a soil bacterium called M. vaccae., you can experience mood improvements from getting your hands dirty and eating food straight from your garden.

You don’t even need a backyard to reap the mental health rewards of gardening, either. You can get started with an indoor herb garden and air-purifying houseplants.

You can also save some money and further boost your time spent with soil by purchasing smaller plants that will soon need repotting.

2. Tending to our plants reduces rumination.

Plant care work engages our minds in such a way that social media just can’t compete.

When we’re tending to our plants, whether it be plucking leaves and pruning or watering and fertilizing, research has shown we’re far less likely to be spiraling into repetitive cycles of negative thinking. It’s like hitting a natural “pause” button.

This is why there’s no such thing as too many houseplants. The more you have, the more there is to care for on a regular basis. Considering each species has different needs, you can keep yourself quite busy with growing a positive vibe in your home. 

3. Caring for houseplants combats life’s daily stressors.

Daily stress wears us down and can easily become a chronic issue with negative ripple effects on our physical and mental health.

We have the power to stop stress before it becomes a real problem, though.

Research has shown that caring for plants has measurable stress-relieving benefits that support your holistic health and reduce risk factors of associated diseases.

Try transitioning from your workdays to evenings by spending even just 10 or 20 minutes in your garden. If you have kids, bring them along for some fresh air and fun.

4. Seeing our houseplants grow gives us hope.

Let’s face it, hope is kinda hard to come by these days. Millennials face unmanageable student debt, job insecurity, a broken housing market, the undeniable dark cloud of a climate crisis… I could go on, but I’ll spare us both. 

It’s not surprising we’re looking for some sign that we’re on the right track and things will be okay. As our baby houseplants grow into healthy green plant toddlers we can post progress pics of, we’re reassured that something will work if we work it. Our efforts are not for naught.

After working a long day where you’re mostly underappreciated and definitely underpaid, this is the boost of confidence and validation that one needs.

Take monthly photos of your houseplants so you can look back at how much they’ve grown since you got them. 

5. Tending to our plants tricks us into exercising.

We all know that exercising helps our mental health because it releases endorphins, but does that mean we actually commit to a routine? Obviously not.

Statistics show that most of us are sedentary for about 12 hours a day, not including sleep time. 

Most of us are bound to office days and Netflix nights and we’re hard-pressed to let anything interrupt — except care work.

Care work for our pets or plants motivates us to move.

“Not only can gardening boost mental health, a good stint of digging and weeding is also great exercise,” Dr Paul Zollinger-Read, Chief Medical Officer for Bupa said to HuffPost UK Lifestyle.

You can reap similar rewards by washing, pruning, plucking, rotating, and watering your houseplants. Remember, the more plants you have, the greater the benefits you’ll experience. Just make sure you don’t overdo it and get overwhelmed with the amount of work.

You don’t need a green thumb, fancy tools, or acres of land to feel the positive effects of gardening. All it requires is some good soil, some seeds or plants, and a little faith in the process.

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• professional blogger and essayist • hobby gardener • Follow Michelle on Instagram or read more articles from Michelle on Thought Catalog.

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