The power of nature to heal

As we enter another lock down it’s important to find ways to care for your mental health and emotional well being.  A few weeks ago I heard a report of some research that looked at the impact of giving people plants to have in their front garden. The research looked for people who had bare gardens with only concrete and no plants. They then gave them some plants to keep in pots in the front garden. The participants cortisol levels (the hormone released when we are stressed) were measured at the start and end of the research and were found to have dropped significantly. The researchers concluded that the impact of seeing the plants on leaving the house had a beneficial effect on the participants, along with caring for them by watering them.

Another study suggests that looking at trees reduces stress. 160 participants were told to prepare to give a  public talk and then perform a subtraction task in front of judges – understandably their stress levels rose! They were then taken to different density of trees and it was found those who were in the areas with the densest collection of trees had the most significant reduction in stress levels. So looking at one tree in the garden will help, but going to a nearby park or wood will have even more of an impact.

Other research with residents in a retirement home found that those residents who were given plants to care for in their room lived longer than those who had plants put in their room but the staff looked after them. A study by NASA in 1989 also found the plants were excellent at filtering pollutants out of the air and so encouraged astronauts to grow plants in space to alter the artificial chemicals that were in the air of the space craft.

So as you consider ways to care for yourself over these weeks to come, perhaps one thing you can do is buy some plants for your room and a few plants for outside your front door! And then see how you can find time for a daily walk where you see plenty of trees.

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