As unassuming objects in the background of our lives, the healing power of houseplants may not be immediately apparent. Beyond beautifying our homes, houseplants can be grounding for someone who has recently undergone treatment or detox.
It can be helpful to support periods of personal growth and vulnerability by establishing routines and responsibilities that remind you of your own journey and inspire you to continue to show up for yourself. In this blog post, we’re sharing more about the healing benefits of houseplants.
The Role of Responsibility in Healing
The various responsibilities we encounter create a foundation and routine in our daily lives. These responsibilities may come from having children, caring for aging parents and relatives, or adopting a pet. Our responsibilities may consume time and energy, but they are also challenging, complex, rewarding experiences.
Being responsible for something external can be valuable, particularly for recovery. Working to seek support and better yourself often feels emotionally and mentally taxing, and recognizing your own strengths and capabilities in caring for something external to yourself can be very fulfilling.
This is why houseplants are so beneficial in healing: they offer something to care for that is low-maintenance yet has a proven positive effect on mental well-being.
Grounding with Houseplants
Grounding is a coping skill that uses self-soothing to deal with stress, overwhelming feelings, and intense anxiety. The ritual of grooming houseplants and tending to their needs nurtures the plants themselves and the caregiver.
Lana Seiler, one of the licensed clinical social workers at All Points North, explains how houseplants can help us intentionally slow down: “Growing plants asks us to be patient with a natural process and helps us slow down. We have been drastically increasing the speed of our lives, and our brains and bodies haven’t kept up, evolutionarily speaking. We are really set to a slower natural rhythm than we are forcing ourselves to operate at. Plants remind us of this more healing tempo.”
Seiler explains how the effects of plants go right down to our central nervous system (CNS), triggering a more parasympathetic CNS activation. This induced state of relaxation slows breathing and heart rate and lowers blood pressure for a tangible somatic response in our bodies.
The routine of keeping houseplants encourages a presence of mind, improves focus, and can foster a sense of connectedness to keep you grounded.
Health Benefits of Houseplants
Houseplants have a range of beneficial effects. In one study, the manual act of working with plants had a significantly more positive response on the nervous system than a mentally stimulating task on a computer¹. Caring for plants allows you to focus and clear your mind while enjoying personal productivity. This can be a cathartic experience for many people.
Witnessing something grow and thrive due to your thoughtful care is a gratifying experience and may inspire you to embrace more activities that support your own growth. The tranquil practice of keeping houseplants can encourage healthy coping skills to keep you steady in your recovery.
Many houseplants act on their environment in ways that benefit people. Some plants can be used as food, first aid, or have other practical uses².
Here are some of the additional benefits of houseplants:
Houseplants Make Us Happier
Studies point towards a positive connection between plants and human happiness. Nature is soothing, and being surrounded by green foliage can be incredibly uplifting. When you bring nature into your indoor spaces with houseplants, it can foster the same peaceful feelings you may get while strolling through a flower garden or a forest trail.
Houseplants Are Relaxing
The beautifying effect of houseplants can reduce anxiety and promote feelings of calm. Houseplants even minimize unwanted background noise in your home. This is especially noticeable if you live in a busy urban setting. The leaves absorb and reflect sound, softening noise and creating a more relaxed atmosphere.
Houseplants Improve Air Quality
We all know plants produce oxygen, but you may not know that plants filter particles out of the air in the photosynthesis process. Most of these indoor compounds found in the air aren’t actively harmful; however, an environment with houseplants is sure to have higher air quality in just a few days.
Houseplants Increase Humidity
Have you ever noticed that stepping into a greenhouse can make you feel as if you’ve been transported to the tropics? Plants release a significant amount of water vapor through their leaves, producing palpable humidity in spaces that are full of plants. You can create this greenhouse effect on a smaller scale in your own home. Healthy levels of moisture nourish your skin, hair, and sinuses.
Getting Started with Houseplants
If you’ve never taken care of houseplants before, it can be a bit intimidating to know where to start. However, don’t be deterred – consider the beginner-friendly options below.
Basil requires about six hours of sunlight per day and well-drained soil. This herb makes a great starter houseplant because you can harvest the fragrant leaves to use in your cooking. Basil will grow in relation to the size of the container – the bigger the pot, the bigger the basil plant³.
Spider plants are one of the most popular starter plants because they’re low maintenance and can grow in a variety of conditions⁴. They are also easy to propagate, meaning you can fill your home with spider plants by using clippings from just one plant. They also make excellent gifts.
Aloe vera is another dual usage plant. It is a succulent with thick, pillowy leaves containing a juicy substance with many uses. Aloe not only purifies the air, but the fluid inside the leaves can also be used as a salve for burns, bug bites, or irritated skin². Aloe requires abundant sunlight, good drainage, and watering about once every two weeks.
Like aloe, succulents need to be watered very infrequently and thrive across a spectrum of sunlight. These unique, hardy plants come in interesting shapes and vibrant colors, making them perfect gifts and treasures for your home.
Often regarded as “unkillable,” the ZZ plant is excellent for beginners and thrives in environments with moderate to low light. They’re also closely related to desert-dwelling plants, which means you don’t need to water them very often.
Pothos have long, leafy vines that add tropical character to any room. They are hardy and low maintenance, easy to propagate, and require little sunlight. It’s important to note that contact with the leaves may irritate those with sensitive skin. Pothos is also poisonous to cats, but keeping them out of reach of your pets should be easy since their long tendrils look best in a hanging pot.
If plants with long vines or voluminous leaves seem too messy to you, you’ll love snake plants. Snake plants grow straight and upwards and have thick, hardy leaves with interesting patterns in various shades of green. They do well in indirect sunlight, and they even benefit from drying out between waterings.
Other Mindfulness-Based Hobbies
Even if the thought of added responsibility sounds unappealing, remember that there is a type of houseplant for everyone, even those less ambitious. You only need three things to start: a plant, a pot, and soil. In time you may find joy in taking more meticulous care of your plants, but don’t worry if watering sounds like enough for you at the moment. You can find the right plant for the level of care you have to offer.
If you’ve tried houseplants without success, or you’re looking to add more mindfulness-based hobbies into your routine, consider trying out some of the practices below.
Keeping a journal can help you express emotions, organize your thoughts, set goals, or keep track of progress and successes. Journaling encourages positive self-talk, which can help you overcome your inner critic. You can also gain confidence as a writer or speaker as you develop these communication skills.
Yoga is a practice that involves asanas (body postures) and breathwork. There are various styles of yoga, all with incredible benefits to support your recovery. Yoga can alleviate stress, improve focus, and generate deeper connections to mind, body, and soul.
Meditation is a series of techniques designed to promote presence and focus. This practice trains the mind to cultivate intuition and develop deep stillness, allowing the body to relax.
Moving Forward in Healing
Returning home after spending time in a treatment facility can feel overwhelming. There are new routines to build and tools to utilize in your continued recovery. There is value in the peaceful routine of caring for houseplants, and you will feel satisfied as you watch them grow.
If you feel like you need more structure and support after treatment, we’re here to help. You can connect with All Points North in individual and group telehealth therapy sessions and build recovery capital by expanding your network of support in the APN Connection App. For more information, call 855-510-4585 or start a today.
- Lee M, Lee J, Park B-J, Miyazaki Y. Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in young adults: a randomized crossover study. Journal of Physiological Anthropology. 2015;34(1). doi:10.1186/s40101-015-0060-8
- “Health Benefits of Houseplants.” Edited by Carol DerSarkissian, WebMD, 4 Nov. 2021, https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-health-benefits-houseplants.
- Tilley, Nikki. “Information On How To Grow Basil Indoors.” Gardening Know How, 21 Feb. 2022, https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/basil/information-on-how-to-grow-basil-indoors.htm.
- “Spider Plant Care: Gardening Tips For Spider Plants.” Gardening Know How, 1 Feb. 2022, https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/houseplants/spider-plant/spider-plant-care-gardening-tips-for-spider-plants.htm.