Research Overview: Psychological & Physiological Impact of Indoor Plants and Their Maintenance
In this blog post, we delve into the fascinating realm of indoor plants and their maintenance, exploring their profound impact on our psychological and physiological well-being. With the COVID-19 pandemic confining us indoors, the absence of outdoor green spaces has taken a toll on our mental health. However, indoor plants have emerged as a source of solace and revitalization. We uncover the psychological benefits they offer, including stress reduction, improved work efficiency, and enhanced relaxation. Moreover, indoor plants play a vital role in purifying indoor air, combating pollutants, and creating a healthier environment. We also delve into the maintenance practices involved in caring for these green companions, acknowledging the challenges and variations dictated by climate and plant species. By shedding light on these aspects, we hope to unveil the diverse advantages of indoor plants, offering a holistic approach to wellbeing amidst the backdrop of the COVID-19 era.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a significant shift in our lifestyle, forcing us to spend extended periods indoors due to stay-at-home orders. This sudden change has not only affected our physical well-being but has also taken a toll on our mental health. Limited access to outdoor green spaces, especially for those living alone, has further exacerbated the situation. The fear surrounding health and economic stability, coupled with reduced social interactions, has resulted in increased levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Additionally, the absence of plants in indoor environments has been known to cause irritability and animosity in humans. The pandemic has amplified these negative emotions, leading to a multi-layered effect on various aspects of life, both psychological and physiological.
The Psychological Benefits of Outdoor Surroundings
Numerous studies have emphasized the psychological benefits of being in natural outdoor environments. The visual and physical exposure to plants has been linked to reduced levels of mental stress, promoting relaxation and comfort in both humans and animals. Furthermore, the natural environment has shown to enhance attention span and help cope with attention deficit. These psychological benefits may be attributed to the concept of Biophilia, which suggests that humans have an innate instinct to connect with nature. Interestingly, while many people associate nature primarily with the outdoors, the importance of indoor plants is often overlooked.
The Role of Indoor Plants during the COVID-19 Lockdown
The COVID-19 lockdown presented an opportunity for individuals to spend more time indoors and engage with their houseplants. This interaction with indoor plants has proven to be beneficial in decreasing stress and anxiety levels. Moreover, indoor air pollution has become a major concern, with studies indicating that the air quality inside homes can be more harmful than outdoor air. While artificial air purifiers have their disadvantages, such as cost and energy consumption, maintaining indoor plants offers an environmentally friendly, cost-effective, and user-friendly alternative for air purification. Indoor plants have the ability to filter pollutants such as carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particulate matter, and carbonyls from the air.
The Objectives of the Study
To gain a better understanding of the impact of indoor plants during the COVID-19 period, the current study focused on three key aspects:
The Psychological Aspect: The study aimed to investigate how houseplants influence the mental health of individuals in their surroundings. It also sought to analyze the various reasons contributing to the growing popularity of indoor plants as a means of enhancing well-being. Additionally, the study aimed to explore the maintenance practices employed for indoor plants in different regions of India and compare the various aspects of indoor plants with their outdoor counterparts.
The maintenance: To study the various methods deployed to maintain indoor plants in different regions of India and comparing the various aspects of indoor plants with outdoor plants.
The Physiological Aspect: The study aimed to examine the effects of indoor plants on the surrounding environment, specifically their role in reducing air pollution and allergens. Furthermore, it sought to investigate how indoor plants contribute to the overall ambiance and aesthetic appeal of a place.
By addressing these objectives, the study aimed to shed light on the multifaceted benefits of indoor plants, encompassing mental, physical, and environmental well-being during the COVID-19 period.
II. Psychological Effect
Numerous respondents (approximately 90%) confirmed that the presence of indoor plants in their surroundings increased their intimacy towards nature. This finding aligns with previous research that suggests indoor plants effectively increase contact time and intimacy with nature, promoting physiological and psychological health. Integrating plants into indoor surroundings can enhance people's engagement with nature, which is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic when individuals are spending more time indoors. Indoor plants offer a means to maintain our bond with nature, which has proven psychological benefits
According to the survey results, 86% of people reported a decrease in their stress levels when looking at plants. This finding is consistent with studies that have shown the positive impact of the natural environment on human psychological well-being. The "Pro-Nature theory," "Attention recovery theory," and "Stress relief theory" provide additional support for the stress-reducing effects of nature. The visual effect of indoor plants has been proven to be highly effective in decreasing stress levels, and research suggests that flowering plants may be more effective than foliage plants in stress reduction.
The survey also revealed that around 80% of people felt their work efficiency increased while working around indoor plants. Indoor plants have a positive influence on the work environment by improving ventilation and effectively filtering the air. Research conducted in Chandigarh found that self-perceived productivity increased among employees in various offices. Additionally, previous studies have shown that flowers, such as roses, can decrease stress and improve the health of office workers.
Regarding the preference for fragrant or non-fragrant plants, 53% of respondents felt that both types of plants are equally relaxing, while 39% favored fragrant plants. Fragrant plants have been shown to induce greater relaxation and attention span compared to non-fragrant plants. The aromatic stimulation provided by fragrant plants, in addition to their visual stimulation, contributes to their positive psychological impact.
It is worth noting that artificial plants were found to provide relaxation to only 18% of the survey participants, while the majority believed that artificial plants are not as helpful as real plants. Research has shown that real foliage plants provide more relaxation and improve concentration among elementary school children. Visual stimulation with fresh pansies has also been found to induce physiological and psychological relaxation effects on high school students.
Approximately 46% of survey respondents noticed different psychological changes on the positive side among family members of various age groups. Different age groups experience varying energy and stress levels, which may influence their reaction to indoor plants. Indoor plants have been found to increase work efficiency and decrease stress among working adults, improve concentration and provide psychological relaxation for school children, and enhance mental health in a home garden setting.
Indoor plants also have an impact on pets. People observed different effects of indoor plants on their pets, with some pets feeling happy or being more inclined to play with plants. However, it is essential to note that some plants can be toxic to animals if ingested.
Maintenance of Indoor Plants
The survey revealed that 85.4% of respondents agreed that variation in climate leads to changes in the method of maintenance for indoor plants. Different species of plants require different maintenance strategies, and the outdoor environment greatly influences the maintenance of indoor plants. Factors such as water, ventilation, sunlight, soil, and manure qualities play a significant role in plant maintenance.
Opinions regarding the difficulty of maintaining indoor plants were divided. Approximately 52% of respondents felt that maintaining indoor plants is neither very difficult nor too easy. While 20.4% reported finding it easy to maintain houseplants, 27.6% considered it quite difficult. Research conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic found that more than half of the participants were willing to host more plants at home and allocate more time for their maintenance, considering it as an enjoyable activity. However, it is important to note that plant maintenance difficulty can vary depending on individual knowledge, experience, and the specific plant species being cared for. Some respondents mentioned that they faced challenges with watering routines, pest control, and providing adequate sunlight to their indoor plants. It is crucial to research and understand the specific needs of each plant species to ensure successful maintenance.
The survey also explored the preferred methods of plant maintenance. The majority of respondents (approximately 78%) preferred manual watering using a watering can or a spray bottle. Manual watering allows individuals to have direct contact with plants and closely monitor their growth. Automated irrigation systems were less popular, with only 22% of respondents preferring this method.
Indoor plants have shown significant positive effects on mental health, stress reduction, and work efficiency. The visual and aromatic stimulation provided by plants contributes to their psychological benefits. However, the maintenance of indoor plants can vary depending on various factors, including climate, species, and individual knowledge. Understanding the specific needs of plants and employing suitable maintenance practices are crucial for their well-being and successful growth. In the next section, we will explore the physiological impact of indoor plants, specifically their role in reducing air pollution and improving air quality indoors.
Chamola, A., Apurva, S., Rao, A. & Ghosh, C. (2022). Psychological and Physiological Impact of Indoor Plants and Their Maintenance. International Journal of Indian Psychology, 10(3), 1376-1391. DIP:18.01.147.20221003, DOI:10.25215/1003.147