What are the Health Benefits of Indoor Houseplants?

Vintage art is cool, and twinkle lights are warm and cheery. But what about houseplants?

When it comes to decking out your home or office space, greenery isn’t exactly exciting. Unlike that flea market find you spent 15 hours restoring, plants tend to be kind of an afterthought.

But they shouldn’t be. Because unlike that Polaroid collage on your wall, leafy living things have a proven track record of protecting your health, zapping your stress, and even helping you get a better night’s sleep.

Here are five science-backed reasons why you should add more plants to your space, ASAP.

1. Plants can help you breathe easier.

Set houseplants up around your space, and you can actually “grow” your own fresh air, says environmentalist Kamal Meattle, who detailed the air-purifying properties of plants in his 2009 TED Talk.

With the help of plants like the areca palm and the spider plant, he was able to improve the air quality of his office park in New Delhi, India. In fact, workers in his building experienced 34% fewer respiratory symptoms, 24% fewer headaches, and 9% less asthma compared to workers in other buildings nearby.

That’s because plants absorb harmful particulates like carbon dioxide and formaldehyde from the air during the process of photosynthesis.

2. They might give your immune system a boost.

Experts have long known that hanging out in nature does good things for your body. One Japanese study published in Environmental Health Preventative Medicine found that forest bathing actually increased the number of virus-fighting cells in subjects blood—for as long as 30 days. The benefit could come from breathing in trees’ volatile organic oils, which seem to have a positive impact on immune function.

Is sitting or sleeping near a houseplant the same thing as spending a few days surrounded by forest? No. But findings do suggest that houseplants do deliver health benefits. In one small study, workers who had plants in their offices were less likely to report coughing, dry throat, itching, or feeling fatigued.

3. They’ll help you be more productive.

Your physical environment has a big impact on how much you’re able to focus and get stuff done. Think about it: A bare-bones room with no windows is depressing. And one with too much stuff going on can be distracting.

Plants are pretty to look at, but they don’t steal the show. They give you a mental boost without sending your brain into overdrive. Which might be why some research shows that employees who work in buildings with plants tend to be more productive, have an easier time concentrating, and feel more satisfied with their work compared to those in plantless buildings.

4. They play a role in fostering healthy relationships.

If it sounds a little woo-woo, hold your judgment. Findings suggest that spending time in plant-filled space can result in a measurable increase in compassion.

Taking care of a plant isn’t nearly as much work as caring for an animal or another human. But you’re still responsible for its survival and wellbeing. And being kind to nature may mean that you’re more likely to be kind to other humans, too. That can translate to deeper, more meaningful relationships, say experts at Texas A&M University.

Will sticking a succulent on your desk automatically turn everyone at the office into your BFF? Probably not. But it might lead you to have nice, more empathetic interactions—and that can sow the seeds for stronger friendships.

5. They just might lead to better sleep.

Your bedroom might not seem like an obvious place to put a peace lily or spider plant. But houseplants have a proven track record of easing stress, anxiety, and depression—three key things that can seriously impact your ability to fall and stay asleep.

Plants, after all, are pretty. And looking at pretty things can make you feel more optimistic and less crazed.

It’s not just the sight of plants that leaves you calmer and happier, though. In a recent study from Wheeling Jesuit University, the aroma of jasmine plants was found to promote feelings of relaxation before bed. Participants who snoozed in a jasmine-scented room also slept more soundly compared to those who were exposed to the smell of lavender or those who slept in a scent-free room.

Best of all? The subjects who were exposed to jasmine were more alert after they woke up—even through the notoriously low-energy afternoon hours.

Definitely beats downing another espresso, right? Now, get yourself over to the nearest nursery.

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