Research Shows Gardening Makes You Healthier

Fiddle figs, ficuses, herb gardens, and air plants. The trend of fashionable greenery continues to grow-- and as Biophiliacs, we’re thrilled about that. (Biophiliacs= those obsessed with all things plant life.)

Besides the aesthetic appeal of pastel petals and luscious leaves, the exposure to nature and plant life has been proven to offer physical and mental benefits to humans. There are a handful of theories as to why this might be, but perhaps the most widely accepted theory addresses our current, and arguably unnatural, state of living.

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It starts here: humans were intended to live in an Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation (EEA), or a natural environment with a simple, raw diet. Therefore, humans have a natural affinity towards plants because in primitive years they offered a source of food, an indication of water, and presented the possibility of shelter. Fast forward a few thousand years and we have processed sugar, television, McDonalds, sedentary office jobs, and self-driving cars, which all contribute to an overall physically lethargic and psychologically stressful state of living. This is what researchers in the field call a “mismatch,” or a difference between our EEA and present living conditions.

And here’s a big mismatch: moving from real jungles to concrete jungles. We as humans are so far removed from our natural habitat that we feel stress, anxiety,  and additional mental energy to engage in our environment.

Surrounding ourselves with plants or spending more time in our EEA (aka outdoors) can help ease feelings of tension and stress.

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Benefits of Gardening

There are a number of reasons that gardening can lead to better health outcomes. It encourages physical activity, socializing, access to healthy, fresh produce, and it can disrupt negative rumination.

The ‘Attention Restoration Theory’ argues that spending more time in a natural environment or surrounding oneself with parts of a natural landscape, such as plants or flowers, allows us to give effortless attention. This means that it’s easier for us to deeply engage with our intended environment as opposed to our “unnatural” environment; therefore when we are engaging with our EEA, it has the potential to restore mental capacity. People who support this theory believe exposing children to natural environments can help ease depression, anxiety, and ADHD.

In fact, there’s a form of therapy that has gained traction in recent years known as “therapeutic horticulture” that is based on that exact idea. It became widespread in the 50s, and as our civilization has progressed towards a sedentary and urban lifestyle, it has become wildly more popular in recent years.

Therapeutic horticulture is a guided form of gardening that helps relieve stress and anxiety. In a controlled trial, it dramatically reduced depressive symptoms in over 70% of the participants, with the positive effects still present at a 3-month follow up. It’s also been found to improve attention capacity due to what has been previously referred to as effortless attention.

The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, along with other rehabilitation centers and mental health clinics, offer therapeutic horticulture to their patients. They’ve found that it offers a sense of responsibility, accomplishment, and mirrors the patients’ growth. It also requires prolonged concentration, typically some socialization, and exposure to the natural environment. At the end of the patients’ stay at the Children’s Hospital, they are encouraged to take their plants with them as a reminder of how they’ve grown and what they’ve learned.

Bringing Nature to You

The easiest way to get more plants in your life is to start your garden! We know some experts to help you out if you're not sure where to start :)

Choosing what to grow can be overwhelming, but here are a few of our favorite supercharged beneficial plants for your garden!

Chamomile: This sweet smelling plant produces all spring and summer long. Grown best in full-sun to part-shade, it can tolerate heat and cool. This is the perfect plant for a low maintenance garden. 

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Thyme:  We enjoy growing this plant as a natural boarder in our gardens. It is easy for this low-growing plant to be hidden under its neighbors, so be careful to give it full-sun to part-shade. Planting in full-shade will prevent it from flowering. This plant grows light purple and pink flowers that produce a pleasant clover-like flavor and smell.  We grow English and French thyme for scent and flavor!

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Majoram:  One of the more underutilized culinary herbs, majoram is a garden favorite. Not only is it extremely fragrant, but it is an excellent plant for attracting bees and butterflies to the garden.  Give this plant full-sun, and it will provide you with endless enjoyment. 

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Fine-- you live in the heart of a big city and you absolutely hate sunlight. Our solution? Bring the plants to you!

From bedrooms to offices, it’s a good first step to consider buying a few pots of greenery to brighten up your home and work environments. They purify the air, improve humidity levels, and-- consciously or unconsciously-- could help put you at ease.

How do we know? In a recent controlled study, patients recovering from surgeries who were randomly selected to stay in rooms with plants and flowers had much higher physical responses. They had lower systolic blood pressure, and lower ratings of pain, anxiety, and fatigue than patients in the control rooms, which were standard hospital rooms without any plant life.

Ready to get started? Here are a few of our favorite indoor plants:  

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Pothos: Perhaps the most low-maintenance plant you can find. It does not require fertilization, and it likes soil to be damp but not soaking. Keep in bright but indirect sunlight.

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Philodendron: It doesn’t mind drying out entirely between waterings. Water 1-2 times per week. these can benefit from liquid fertilizer about once per month in the spring and summer, and every other month in the fall and winter.

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Chinese evergreens: These plants are also relatively low-maintenance and will do well in a number of different light and temperature conditions. Make sure to let the soil dry out between waterings to avoid root rot. Fertilize once or twice yearly.

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Spider Plant: This little plant enjoys bright, indirect sunlight and well-drained soil. If the leaves start browning on the ends, don’t worry! This is normal. It’s most likely due to fluoride in tap water and will not harm the plant. If possible, keep this one at a slightly cooler temperature.

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Mint: You know it, you love it, and did you know you can grow it indoors? Plant seeds in a deep, wide planter and place in bright sunlight. Be conscious to always keep the soil damp, and soon you’ll have a bounty of mint for salads, cocktails, tea, garnishes and more.

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Arabian Jasmine: Sick of overpaying for scented soy candles? Try growing some of these softly fragrant flowers in your home. They like warmth, bright light, and humidity. A brightly-lit bathroom could be ideal as the humidity and heat from the shower can do them good!

Whatever you grow, we know you'll feel better for it!