December 2, 2016
The Benefits of People-Plant Interaction
Plants, just like humans and animals, are alive and are the backbone that supports all ecological processes. For centuries, humans have relied on plants for food and fiber, however, our dependence on plants goes beyond survival. Plants have been used to help a number of people, not just through pharmaceuticals and medicine. It has been proven that direct and indirect interaction with plants have physical benefits. In addition, people-plant interaction promotes psychological well being. Due to their versatile uses, plants have been proven to have positive physical benefits and promote mental health and well-being through people-plant interaction.
People physically benefit from the interaction with plants. Having plants in a doctor’s office or places of high stress have shown to significantly reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and stress. In addition, having plants present in a hospital room reduces the amount of recovery time from surgery (Lewis, 1995, p. 31). It is believed that because plants are living, they bring life to these mundane and insipid places. These small interactions with plants promote physical well-being and aid in memory retention and concentration. Not only does it promote a physical state of comfortability and health in medical facilities, but plants also aid in reducing stress in a workspace. By having plants in an office and creating “green spaces,” productivity is increased on average by fifteen per cent (Nieuwenhuis et al. 2014). By reducing stress, people physically benefit and can perform longer by keeping their focus. Plants also increase the amount of oxygen in the air. Studies show that there is a direct correlation between carbon dioxide levels in offices and workspaces where there are no plants (Nieuwenhuis et al. 2014). With higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air, people are more likely to feel lethargic and lose their focus. By having plants in workplaces, the amount of oxygen is increased and leaves people more awake and focused. If people are more alert they will be more productive at work or in schools.
In addition to the physical health benefits that arise when interacting with plants, there are countless psychological benefits that arise for those who are constantly surrounded by nature. /Indirect and direct interaction with plants promotes mental health and well-being. Being surrounded by plants and nature causes emotional responses such as relaxation, comfort, happiness, peace, and calmness which are attributed to green colors and shades. These soothing feelings produced by the color green are psychologically linked and associated with nature (Kaya et. al. 2004). By being around more green plants, people are able to feel more comfortable and relaxed thus promoting mental health and creating a sense of well being. In a variety of studies people experienced mental and emotional health benefits by just seeing and experiencing plants through their windows. In one particular study conducted by Ulrich and Addoms, it was reported that college students benefited psychologically by having a park on campus (Bedimo-Rung et. al. 2005). These psychological benefits were attributed to being in a calming, open environment surrounded by plants. Directly interaction with plants also improves mental health and well-being. Working with plants reduces depression by increasing self-worth and social interaction (Elings, 2006). Because people in the community enjoy the plants and flowers, gardeners take pride in their work and it builds their self-esteem (Lewis, 1995, p. 36). The increase in self-esteem has been linked to working with plants and building confidence and self-esteem is a part of a strong foundation for emotional well-being.
People across a variety of socioeconomic statuses and ages are physically and mentally stimulated by interacting with plants. Adults over the age of sixty showed improved memory and focus by working with plants. Simply having plants growing in the window or outside in the garden promotes a feeling of being needed and depended upon. Plants fill the void of empty nesters and gives them something alive to look after (Lewis, 1995). Through nurturing plants, the elderly feel a sense of need and develop feelings of anticipation for the development of new leaves and flowers. Research shows that prisoners also benefit from interacting with plants. With their involvement with plants, inmates strengthened their problem solving and social skills as well as learn how to be responsible (Lewis, 1995, p. 50). In addition, prisoners showed a change in attitude after being in contact with plants. There were less signs of hostility and aggression and an increase in confidence and self esteem (Lewis, 1995, p. 50). Developing problem solving and social skills is an important part of life and normalcy that allows prisoners to keep their life moving forward while it is paused at the same time. The skills and habits that are developed in prison translate to their behavior when they are no longer imprisoned.
Our reliance on plants goes far beyond food and fiber. Direct and indirect interaction with them promotes physical and mental health benefits. Having plants in close proximity reduces stress and carbon dioxide levels, increases work production and aids in memory retention. Plants also triggers positive mental well being through interaction. A variety of emotions, such as happiness, relaxation, and calmness, are evoked when plants are present. Plants also help many different types of people, from elderly citizens to those who are incarcerated. Interacting with plants stimulates feelings of being needed, responsibility and teaches people different skills. All in all, plants have been proven to be beneficial in everyday life by promoting physical and mental well-being.