OPINION: Houseplants are much more than trendy decor

Nov 12, 2021 | Et Cetera, OP-ED, Opinion

Houseplants are beneficial for more than just aesthetics, and they make for a great hobby during the pandemic to boost emotional wellbeing.

In the spring of 2020, when life as we knew it seemed to pause indefinitely, my dad brought me home a succulent one day. Little did he know, a new passion of mine would start to grow right along with that plant, and I’d reap the benefits of indoor gardening that I never knew existed.

During such a negative time in the world, when my mood and mental health were at an all-time low, growing and caring for houseplants gave me something positive to focus on. I realized I looked forward to the time of day where I would tend to my little indoor garden.

Shutting out the negativity of the outside world while focusing on watering, pruning, and propagating my plants eased my anxiety and made me feel happier.

Now, trendy succulents, trailing ivies, massive monstera-deliciosas and tropical palms take over my room, and my collection still continues to grow. The sense of pride and excitement I feel when a plant of mine flowers or grows a new leaf is more prominent than I ever expected.

My plants gave me a sense of purpose while stuck at home for months with no school or work to occupy my time and my mind. It was a way to temporarily escape the stress that came along with the pandemic.

As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

Studies show plants are beneficial to mental health and happiness. It has been shown to release ‘happy hormones’ serotonin and dopamine, and lower the stress hormone cortisol, according to a 2017 Psychology Today article by Loretta Graziano Breuning, the founder of the Inner Mammal Institute and Professor Emerita of Management at California State University, East Bay.

An April 2021 study published in the Urban Forestry and Urban Greening journal showed indoor plants can decrease stress levels, improve moods and generally contribute to improved mental health and wellbeing. It also found people living in a house without plants were more likely to experience negative emotions during the pandemic than those with plants.

Of the 4,205 people surveyed for the study, nearly 75 per cent reported plants positively impacted their emotional wellbeing during COVID. More than half of the participants also reported they spent more time caring for plants than they did before the pandemic.

With more people getting into plants and gardening in the past couple of years, it has also become a popular topic across social media platforms. There are currently more than 1.8 billion videos under #PlantTok on TikTok, where creators share their experiences, tips and tricks for all things green, from which plants to purchase for different levels of experience, to how to care for them, to how to propagate them and more.

Like any hobby, it offers a sort of sense of community among others who share the interest. Having that sense of community is more important than ever, now that we’ve spent the better part of the past two years locked down at home with limited in-person interaction.

If you’re looking for a lasting hobby that will improve your mood and ease your stress, indoor gardening might be for you.