How Plants Make You Healthier

 

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The natural world around us has the potential to improve both our physical health and mental well-being. From stress reduction to enhancing creativity, plants do so much more than simply add curb appeal to our homes. You and your family can benefit from the many health benefits of nature by harnessing this power in your own backyard, simply with well-chosen plants.

They Boost Your Brain Power

The impact of plants and nature on a person's mental capacity is astounding.

Research conducted by Stanford University showed that spending time in a natural environment positively affect your brain. Researches sent half of the participants on a walk through a park, while the other half walked through an urban environment, and found that those on the park stroll were better able to regulate their emotions and shift their attention away from negative thoughts.

When you spend time in nature, whether climbing a mountain or relaxing on a patio surrounded by plants, your mind experiences an expansive shift in how it views time. A “time abundance” replaces the usual pressures of time (or lack thereof) as nature creates a sense of awe. This shifting perception triggers inspiration and creativity as we temporarily wind down and perceive the bigger picture of the intricacies of the natural world. Instead of stressing about the restrictions of time and the projects we have to complete, we allow ourselves to wind down and focus on our more creative endeavors.

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Nature can enhance our creative potential. Psychologists from the University of Utah and the University of Kansas found that the creative potential of individuals who had recently experienced nature was 50% higher than those who had not yet done so. Researchers had participants take a creativity test across a four-day hiking trip. David Strayer, a co-author of the study and professor of psychology at the University of Utah, found that “interacting with nature has real, measurable benefits to creative problem-solving.”


They Improve Memory and Concentration

Have a big presentation or exam coming up? Struggling to focus when paying bills or filing taxes? Moments like these are the best time to get some fresh air. Research shows that physical activity outdoors helps to stimulate our brain processing power when we return to our desks, improves brain function and even affecting its development in kids.

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Charles Hillman, a psychology professor from Northeastern University found evidence that kids who are physically active for seventy minutes a day display better cognitive skills on standardized tests than those who aren't. The study also found that the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus of physically fit children are better developed. The hippocampus is the part of our brains responsible for storing long-term memories, as well as the memory of locations of objects or people, so it's no surprise that more active kids also performed better in memory tests.

Scientists at the University of Illinois found results which supported this research when they used MRI data to measure brain size. Similarly, researchers at the University of North Texas found that kids who spent time outside doing aerobic exercise performed better on reading and maths tests.

They Reduce Stress (and its Dangerous Consequences)

Keeping up with daily life can feel overwhelming. When it feels like there simply aren't enough hours in the day, the stress you’re feeling can wreak havoc on your body. Stress symptoms contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and depression, amongst other effects.

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A growing collection of scientific studies paints a picture for us as nature having a positive impact on stress. Not only does it have the ability to reduce the stress we already have, everyday interactions with nature can go as far as to actually prevent stress in the first place. A recent behavioral sciences study found that visitors to the most natural of three study environments recorded decreased levels of cortisol, demands, worries, and an increased level of joy.

MIND, a mental health organization, conducted a study asking participants to either go for a walk in nature or a shopping mall. Researchers found that 71% of the nature walkers had reduced symptoms of depression, while 22% of those at the shopping center were more depressed after their walk.

Even taking a moment to look out the window at trees or a garden can help you reduce the stress you're feeling. Researchers have found restorative, quantifiable benefits from simply looking at something in nature.

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All of life’s daily stresses can sometimes be overwhelming. Nature can help: simply adding some greenery to your outdoor space can change your perspective.

With the many health markers improved by access to nature, it's time to start thinking about ways you can enhance and enjoy your outdoor space.

 
Janice Nicol