Plants and Wellbeing
Bloombox Club is about helping people discover the benefits of connecting with nature. From lowering stress-hormones to making us more compassionate, plants can boost our wellbeing in small but powerful ways. You’ve probably had the experience of feeling better in nature, but have you thought about why it happens?
Psychologist Dr. Katie Cooper, who founded Bloombox Club after using plants to help clients with mental health difficulties, has begun to map out the way plants improve mood. Katie’s framework follows three progressive stages: Passive Exposure, Active Engagement and Internalisation. These three stages correspond with the way we integrate plants into our lives, and with our categories Breathe, Restore, Boost.
‘Put simply,’ says Katie, ‘we unconsciously benefit from being around nature, but once we start paying attention to plant life, and nurturing specific plants over an extended period, these benefits accumulate. Some of these effects come from evolved responses, while others are due to changes in thought patterns. The final phase sees subjects internalise the energy and care that they’ve put into plants; like a mutually supportive relationship.’
So what are these benefits?
Instant benefits, to name a few, include:
- Improved air quality. Plants are natural humidifiers and reduce the level of harmful toxins in our homes. This can lead to better respiratory health and a stronger immune system.
- Lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels heighten blood pressure and makes us more vulnerable to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, but being around plants reduces the levels of cortisol our bodies produce.
- Faster recuperation times. Studies have shown that patients in environments with plants recuperate from illnesses more quickly and experience lower levels of pain post-surgery.
Restored mental wellbeing and concentration-levels. As plants induce feelings of calm and heighten focus, we become more efficient, productive and creative.
Benefits you may have to work a little harder to experience include:
What does Breathe, Restore and Boost mean?
We want the Bloombox Club community to benefit as much as they can from our plants without needing to troll through mounds of research. The most frequent questions we get asked is ‘which plants offer the best wellbeing benefits’ and ‘what do different plants do differently.’ The full answers to these questions are nuanced, but our three categories, Breathe, Restore and Boost, effectively filter plants by the wellbeing benefits they offer.
As part of photosynthesis, plants have tiny pores on their foliage which allow them to take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Through the same process, unwanted pollutants can be filtered out of indoor environments, purifying the air. Some plants are especially good at this and you’ll find them all underneath our Breathe section.
Air purification is particularly important in sealed environments such as offices, where fresh air doesn’t come in often, or in heavily polluted areas. But even common household products such as aerosol deodorant, detergent and other cleaning products can leave harmful chemicals behind, so it’s always worth investing in these natural air cleaners.
Also under our Breathe section are plants which increase humidity levels. Respiratory health can be greatly improved by humidity, especially if you live or work in an air conditioned environment which has a drying effect. These humidifiers will not only allow you to breathe more easily, they’ll counteract the skin-drying effects of aircon too.
Modern life is fraught with noise, movement and visual complexity, which can result in damaging levels physiological and psychological excitement. Although we may not be conscious of it, the effort of keeping these competing demands in check is mentally fatiguing, and this makes it harder to focus on tasks. Research shows that plants can help relieve this mental fatigue, allowing us to maintain focus.
Where the constructed environment exhausts brain capacity, the visual and chemical properties of plants restore it. Humans have not evolved to cope with the sensory overload of man-made products, but in conjunction with nature. We have an innate compatibility with natural patterns, which draws us to them without effort; they fascinate us whilst simultaneously resting our direct attention.
Although all plants are restorative, some are more so than others, due to qualities such as colour, pattern distribution and texture. For example, fractal patterns have a marked influence on participants’ ability to focus on a task. You’ll find these plants under Restore.
The extent to which we integrate plants into our lives will determine the wellbeing benefits we experience. Although living amongst vegetation improves our mental state in and of itself, developing an active relationship with plants is where the most acute benefits are seen. The act of nurturing a specific plant, and nurturing one’s relationship with that plant, has particular effects on the psyche.
Consistent active engagement has been shown to boost our sense of wellbeing, leading to positive feelings such as self-mastery, autonomy and compassion for yourself and others. Active engagement can include anything from dusting your plant’s foliage, to closely monitoring its growth, to repotting it in nutrient-rich soil. As caring for plants becomes habitual, the process can become a place of refuge. This is much like finding a routine with yoga, meditation or, perhaps, even a therapist. As these positive interactions mount, and the care we give increases, we may form more attuned relationships with ourselves, others and surroundings.
Increasing the amount and variety of plants in our homes will also boost the wellbeing benefits we experience. Research indicates that density and diversity of plant-life matters when it comes to reaping the aforementioned benefits.
In evolutionary terms, biodiversity is a sign that an area is healthy and habitable. Whilst in a rich and diverse environment, we’re sent the same positive, feel-good signals as our ancestors would have experienced. To maximise and intensify your exposure to plants, we offer plant bundles under Boost, as well as individual plants that require more specific engagement.