Botanical benefits for body, mind and soul

FEATURE — At this time of year we start to feel the shift in seasons; the temperatures begin to drop, kids are getting back in school, work routines are more settled after summer vacations, and we spend more time indoors.

How productive and pleasant that time is can be largely impacted by our inside environment. Air quality and bringing the beauty of nature indoors to improve our enjoyment of time spent there is important, but studies have also shown that filling your spaces with live plants helps you think better, improves your mood, and stimulates brain activity! These living organisms interact with your body and mind in ways that enhance the quality of life.

Texas A&M conducted a study where test subjects were asked to perform creative problem solving tasks that are common to an office environment or condition.

“During the study both men and women demonstrated more innovative thinking, generating more ideas and original solutions to problems in the environment that included flowers and plants,” the study said. “In these surroundings, men who participated in the study generated 15 percent more ideas . . . and females generated more creative, flexible, solutions to problems when flowers and plants were present.”

Beautiful plant that could be placed in the home or office, undated | Photo courtesy of Niki Warner
Beautiful plant that could be placed in the home or office, undated | Photo courtesy of Niki Warner

Their research studies continue to illustrate the benefits of including interior plants to promote wellness and reduce stress with studies conducted in major hospital settings where “viewing settings with plants for a few minutes can promote measurable restoration even in hospital patients who are acutely stressed. . . there is considerable evidence that restorative effects of nature are manifested within only three to five minutes as a combination of psychological/emotional and physiological changes.”

Foremost among these physiological changes is that plants can elevate levels of positive feelings such as pleasantness or calmness, and reduce negative emotions such as fear, anger, and sadness. These physiological benefits can be manifested as positive changes in “blood pressure, heart activity, muscle tension, and brain electrical activity.”

In classroom studies with students where plants were present, “reaction time on the computer improved by 12 percent and a lower systolic blood pressure was measured when plants were placed in a computer laboratory along with teacher’s reports of students experiencing greater attentiveness,” the study said.

These findings were confirmed by a study at The Royal College of Agriculture in Circencester, England, which found that students demonstrate 70 percent greater attentiveness when they are taught in rooms containing plants. In the same study, attendance was also higher for lectures given in classrooms with plants.

With the agitation, distractions, stressors, and responsibilities we all face in the modern age, isn’t it great to know that the addition of something so simple to our environment can counteract these factors and improve our mental function and physiological well-being? If there were a pill on the market that could promise all these benefits with side effects of better health and serenity we’d all be lining up for a prescription!

Fortunately this is an all-natural solution; the simple addition of indoor plants not only makes a space look good, it makes it a better place to work, to study, to think, and to relax. Consider the spaces where your family spends their time doing these types of things and make a positive difference by bringing live foliage inside your places and spaces.

Written by Niki Warner for St. George Health & Wellness Magazine and St. George News.

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