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mental health / lifestyle

Plants for Depression

by BetterSleep
Nov 12 2022 • 6 min read

Mental health benefits of plants are already well known. Being around plants and nature lowers stress and helps combat anxiety and depression. Plants improve physical health too, reducing blood pressure and improving indoor air quality.

The calming effect of houseplants benefits everyone, but if you struggle with depression, you might get even more out of them. Plants can be an inexpensive and powerful supplement to professional care for depression.

What Do Plants Do for Mental Health?

Depression is a serious mental health condition. Anything that can boost mental health and reduce the risk or severity of depression is beneficial. Although they are not a cure for any condition, indoor plants boost mood and improve mental health. Along with professional support and other lifestyle choices, houseplants can help you feel better.

Plants and People Belong Together

We are closely connected to plants because we co-exist together. Modern life and urban living have removed many people from close proximity to plants, which isn’t natural. Throughout our species’ history, we have lived intimately and closely with plants.

Houseplants, gardens, and spending time outside helps you reestablish that natural connection, which is good for mental health. This connection has been proven over decades of research to increase positive emotions and decrease negative emotions, boosting mood and improving mental health.

Plants Make You Feel Better

Even spending just 15 or 20 minutes near a plant can improve your mood and help you feel more at peace. Studies indicate that being around plants for only a few minutes is an instant mood boost. They make people feel happier, more comfortable, and more satisfied with life in general.

Plants Improved Mental Health During the Pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic left people stuck indoors more often than they liked, plants provided relief.

In a study that surveyed people for a month during the pandemic, researchers found that those with access to plants or with a view of green spaces outside felt better. They suffered less depression and anxiety. Plants helped moderate some of the negative mental health effects of the pandemic quarantine.

Other Ways Plants Are Good for Health

Houseplants are great for mental health, but they are also good for your physical well-being. When you feel good physically, you are less likely to experience depression and other negative mental health symptoms.

Plants Lower Both Psychological and Physiological Stress

Not only do plants make you feel less stressed, but they also lower physiological stress markers like blood pressure. Plants actually suppress autonomic nervous system activity. This is the body’s fight-or-flight response, which triggers stress. Suppressing its activity has the effect of lowering your stress levels, both physically and mentally.

They Filter Harmful Toxins from the Air

NASA performed a famous study decades ago that has stood the test of time and that showed houseplants effectively filter toxic substances from indoor air.

It might be that the plants themselves as well as microorganisms in the potting soil both contribute to this effect. Either way, fewer airborne toxins are good for your health.

Being Around Plants is Energizing

The presence of green plants has the effect of recharging and restoring you mentally and physically. If you feel fatigued, the presence of a plant can give you a boost of energy. In turn, this effect boosts creativity, attention, focus, and productivity.

How Do Indoor Plants Help Combat Depression?

Plants are good for you, period. But they are particularly good for combatting depression. Plants are natural mood boosters, and there are several ways in which they specifically help people who struggle with depression.

The general mood-boosting powers of plants provide the primary mechanism for reducing depression, but there are other reasons plants help.

Houseplants Need You

When you are bogged down in a depressed mood, your motivation is at an extreme low. You might find it hard to do normal chores, go to work, or even get out of bed. Apathy and fatigue are typical signs of depression.

A plant needs you to survive. It requires regular watering at a minimum, but it also needs pruning and trimming, turning in the window to catch the sun all around, and occasional feedings.

Having something in the house that relies on you can give you a sense of purpose, and a reason to get up and take care of responsibilities. Even something as small as watering houseplants can remind you that you matter and that you are needed.

Being a Plant Parent Boost Confidence

Taking care of plants not only provides a purpose but also builds confidence. Depression can make you feel worthless and useless, but when you can successfully nurture and grow plants, you will feel better about your abilities.

Being good at something is a confidence booster that can also improve your mood and reduce feelings of depression.

Plants Remind You to Engage in Self Care

Taking care of someone or something else is also a reminder, a little nudge, that you too need care. As you dote on a houseplant, it reminds you that self-care is also essential. Nurturing a living plant can be a trigger to help you learn to take care of yourself too.

Houseplants Provide Green During Winter Months

Seasonal depression is a real phenomenon. Some people experience depression in fall and winter as the days get shorter and the temperatures colder. Known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this condition can make you feel miserable all winter long.

Important lifestyle habits for combatting SAD include getting outdoors as much as possible. Exposure to sunlight and nature boosts your mood, but being outside in winter isn’t always practical or comfortable.

If you can add plants to your inside environment, they will help boost your mood in all the usual ways plants combat depression. But they also help you feel better by tricking your brain into forgetting that it’s winter.

Seeing green and smelling living plants triggers a sense that you are outside during spring or summer.

Plants Might Help You Sleep Better

Because plants reduce stress, lower blood pressure, boost mood, and help you feel more connected to nature, they can also improve your sleep. Depression can interfere with sleep and poor sleep, in turn, increases depressive symptoms.

Anything you can do to get more high-quality sleep will benefit your mental health and help you combat depression. Plants can be powerful tools in creating a relaxing environment for sleep.

The Best Plants for Depression

The best plants to boost your mood are the ones you can afford, find easily, and take care of successfully. The most important thing is to have plants in your environment, but these are some great specimens with both visual appeal and few maintenance needs:

Spider Plant

Spider plant is a classic, easy, and low-maintenance houseplant for beginner plant parents. It’s one of NASA’s air cleaners and will help remove toxins from your indoor space. It also produces cheerful little baby plants known as pups.

Snake Plant

This is an attractive yet easy-going plant. It survives even in tough conditions, which is a great reminder for anyone with depression. It’s difficult to kill snake plants. It just requires occasional watering to thrive, so it’s another great option for beginners.

Peace Lily

The name says it all. This is a gorgeous plant that will help you create a soothing, peaceful indoor space that is conducive to good mental health. Peace lily is also easy to care for and withstands neglect.

During those times when you struggle to get chores completed, peace lilies might wilt from lack of watering, but it perks right back up once you lavish attention on them. It’s a great reminder for anyone with depression. A little attention and self-care make a big difference.

Jade Plant

Another classic houseplant, the jade plant is a resilient succulent. It holds water in its fleshy leaves and doesn’t need to be watered as frequently as other plants. Jade plants live for many years, so they can serve as a reminder of where you have been and how you have improved your health.

Bamboo Palm

Choose a large plant like bamboo palm for maximum impact. This tropical palm tree is a low-maintenance houseplant that can give you a summer feel during a winter spent indoors.

Bamboo palm doesn’t require a lot of care, but it does need humidity. Spritz it every day with water as a reminder to yourself that daily care is important for both you and your plants.

Build a Plant Collection for Better Mental Health

Houseplants can have a huge positive impact on your overall health, including mental wellness. Caring for and nurturing your plants can improve your mood and give you purpose, but can also be overwhelming. Start with plants that you can manage easily and add to your collection as you build confidence in caring for them.

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