Breathe Your Greens: Stress Relieving Indoor Plants

Breathe Your Greens: Stress Relieving Indoor Plants

Having a house plant is probably one of the hottest trends amongst millennials and other young people today, with social media becoming chock-full of people posting photos of their jungle-esque collection of aloes and ivy’s adorning their studio apartments.

As far as trends go, it’s probably one of the greenest, cheapest, most sustainable, and healthiest: house plants aren’t just there to beautify a home, although they do that in spades: house plants also have a host of physical and psychological benefits that we as people sorely need.

House Plants Make You Happy

According to a recent study by the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, active interaction with plants, even briefly, can significantly improve heart rate and blood pressure. The study reported that subjects who interacted with plants for a short period of time every day felt more soothed and comfortable.

Plants have a unique way of keeping us connected with nature, something that researchers say is important to our psychological health. Nature connectedness, which is a state wherein the human psyche is in touch with natural surroundings, is an essential dimension of mental health, and for people living in the city, it can be tough with all the pollution and concrete. House plants, despite being small and certainly not as prolific as steel and glass, are enough to remind everyone of the world outside.

Houseplants Give You Better Air to Breathe

Just because you live in a nice apartment doesn’t mean the air quality is good: according to the American Lung Association, indoor air can be very polluted, with many apartment buildings suffering from high levels of carbon monoxide, benzene, and in the case of older buildings, mold, and asbestos.

This deadly cocktail of toxicity, however, is pretty much nullified by the presence of house plants, which have been shown to decrease toxic air-borne pollutants in enclosed spaces by as much as 60%. They’re so effective, even NASA is experimenting with using plants in space stations.

They Have Healing Superpowers

A healthy mind leads to a healthy body. If you’re happy and connected with nature, your mental space is more conducive to healing your body when you’re sick, according to this research study from Kansas State University. Scientists are finding a direct link between house plants and recovery times, with more of the former leading to less of the latter.

Researchers believe that, by having house plants around someone recovering from illness, not only do the plants help with air quality, it also aids in providing a more positive psychological space. In fact, many health care professionals now advocate for hospitals to have more potted plants, citing them as a “noninvasive, inexpensive, and effective complementary medicine for surgical patients.”

Closely related to the non-pharmaceutical horticulture therapy, using house plants to augment pharmaceutical solutions is fast becoming a popular remedy for many patients and doctors.

What Kind of Indoor Plant should you Get?

But just because they’re good for you doesn’t mean you can just choose haphazardly; a big mistake new plant owners make is getting a ton of house plants without doing research on how to take care of them. They then go through anxiety as their plants die one by one, which is the opposite of what plants are supposed to do.

Instead, you need to do due diligence when getting house plants. Caring for house plants should help manage anxiety and stress, not cause them. With that in mind, choose plants that are:

  • Suited for indoor living. While it’s tempting to get the fastest growing plants at home, these might grow too wild and become clutter.
  • Will receive the appropriate amount of light that your house/apartment provides (be it direct or indirect)
  • Hardy
  • Has easy-to-follow care instructions

Most stress-relieving indoor plants fulfill all these factors, and some of the best ones have been listed below:

Aloe Vera

One of the most popular, hardy, and easy-to-care-for house plants, aloe veras are known for their aesthetic quality, air-cleaning properties, and for the healing characteristics of the natural gel that is present in its leaves.

Aloe Veras are CAM plants, which stand for Crassulacean Acid Metabolism, which means that the plant conserves energy during the day and blooms at night, releasing high-quality oxygen as the sun goes down.

The best part? The aloe vera is known as being one of the most effective air-cleaning plants and is especially adept at absorbing formaldehyde and benzene from a room.

Care Instructions

The aloe vera is very low maintenance; in fact, you’d have more luck killing this plant with poison than with neglect, making it the perfect plant for first-time plant owners and/or people who claim to have a ‘black thumb’. To care for an Aloe Vera, simply:

  •  Keep it under indirect or artificial light. Bright light is encouraged, however, as darkness can make the aloe vera look scraggly and scruffy.
  • Water the Aloe Vera every 3 weeks or when the soil in your pot is completely dry. The aloe vera is part of the cactus family, so it flourishes under low-moisture conditions.

Areca palm

An ornamental plant native to India and Madagascar, the Areca Palm, also known as the “butterfly palm” is a strikingly beautiful plant with multiple, supple, stems with arching leaves. In the summer, the Areca Palm produces gorgeous yellow flowers.

It’s one of nature’s most effective humidifiers, with a single 6-foot Areca Plant transpiring, or give off, water vapor from its leaves at a rate of about 1 liter per day, making it perfect for people who suffer from dry eyes. The Areca Palm, much like the Aloe Vera, is also a powerful air purifier, capable of filtering out large quantities of toluene, formaldehyde, and xylene, from a room.

Care Instructions

Areca Palms can be lifelong companions, with their average lifespan going up to around 10 years. They grow to 6-7 feet tall and are best kept indoors.

  • Bright, indirect light is best. Direct light has a tendency to make the Areca Palms lush leaves to turn yellow or brown.
  • Areca Palms need more water than the Aloe Vera, requiring a watering every 2 to 3 days. However, it’s always best to wait until the surface soil of the plant is completely dry before watering.


One of the most difficult, but calming, plants to take care of, Bonsais can be bought either ready-made or wild. Bonsais are prized for their stiff leaves and miniature tree-like appearance. Made popular by Japanese Zen Buddhists, the Bonsai is more than just a plant; it’s a meditation tool that helps you clear your mind and completely de-stress.

As a stress-relieving indoor plant, the Bonsai requires you to learn how to properly care for and prune its delicate leaves and stems. Cultivating a Bonsai can take an entire lifetime to master, something that appeals to many people around the world. Lessons in Bonsai caring center on proper cutting techniques, watering, and clearing your mind as you prune the plant. A Bonsai must also be ‘trained’; that is, properly grown Bonsais must be able to fit in smaller containers.

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