How Indoor Plants Shape Our Perceptions of Air Quality and sense of Well-Being

Houseplants have long been celebrated for their ability to enhance indoor spaces, purify the air, and create a calming ambiance. The benefits of healthy houseplants on our well-being are well-documented, but recent research has uncovered an unexpected twist. It turns out that the health of your indoor green companions can have a significant impact on your stress levels.

Fresh findings from a collaborative study between the University of Reading and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) reveal that well-rounded, leafy, and thriving indoor plants offer the most significant well-being benefits in both homes and office settings. In contrast, neglecting plants can prove to be even more detrimental than having no plants at all.

The Power of Healthy Houseplants

1. Stress Reduction

Healthy houseplants have a remarkable ability to reduce stress and promote relaxation. Their lush green foliage and the act of caring for them can create a tranquil environment that soothes the mind. Studies have shown that simply being around plants can lower cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress.

2. Improved Air Quality

Healthy houseplants are effective natural air purifiers. They remove toxins and pollutants from the air, contributing to better indoor air quality. Breathing in cleaner air has been linked to reduced stress and improved mental clarity.

3. Enhanced Mood

The visual appeal of thriving houseplants can positively impact our mood. Their vibrant colors and soothing presence can uplift our spirits and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Taking a moment to admire your healthy plants can provide a mental escape from daily stressors.

The Unexpected Twist: Sickly Houseplants and Stress

While the benefits of healthy houseplants are well-established, recent research has shed light on the potential downside of neglecting your green friends. It appears that sickly, neglected, or dying houseplants can actually increase stress levels. Here's why:

1. Visual Stressors

Unhealthy houseplants can become visual stressors. Rather than providing a calming presence, wilting leaves or brown, withered stems can create a sense of disarray and neglect in your living space. This visual chaos can contribute to heightened stress levels.

2. Guilt and Neglect

When we neglect our houseplants to the point of sickness or decline, we may feel guilty about our inability to care for them adequately. This guilt can add an additional layer of stress to our lives as we worry about the well-being of our plants.

3. Reflection of Self-Care

Sickly houseplants can also serve as a reflection of our own self-care practices. Neglecting our plants may lead us to question how well we're taking care of ourselves, further exacerbating stress.

The Impact of Indoor Plant Appearance

Recent studies have shown that the appearance of indoor plants can significantly influence people's responses and well-being:

1. Interest and Beauty

The interest and beauty of indoor plants have a direct impact on well-being. The aesthetics of healthy, well-maintained plants enhance the overall appeal of your living space, making it more inviting and pleasant.

2. Perceptions of Indoor Air Quality

The healthiness and appearance of plants can influence perceptions of indoor air quality. When indoor plants are thriving and visually appealing, people are more likely to believe that the air in their environment is clean and pure.

3. The Importance of Shape

Interestingly, the shape of indoor plants plays a crucial role in their attractiveness. According to research, shape is ranked as the most important characteristic affecting plant attractiveness. People tend to prefer indoor plants with rounded canopy contours, which evoke a sense of harmony and balance.

Healthy houseplants can indeed improve your well-being by reducing stress, purifying the air, and enhancing your mood. However, it's equally important to recognize the potential negative impact of neglecting your plants. Sickly specimens can become stressors themselves, prompting feelings of guilt and reflection on self-care practices.

Moreover, the appearance of indoor plants matters. The interest, beauty, and shape of your plants can influence your well-being and how others perceive your indoor environment. By taking active steps to care for your houseplants and selecting visually appealing varieties, you not only improve their well-being but also create a more serene and harmonious environment in your home. So, let your houseplants thrive, and in return, they will help you cultivate a healthier, happier, and less stressful living space that's visually pleasing to all.

Check out our indoor plant blog for more interesting houseplant hacks and advice 

Credit authorship contribution statement

Jenny Berger: Writing – original draft, Methodology, Investigation, Formal analysis, Data curation, Conceptualization. Emmanuel Essah: Writing – review & editing, Supervision. Tijana Blanusa: Writing – review & editing, Supervision. C. Philip Beaman: Writing – review & editing, Supervision.

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