Answer: The soft greens of plants add beauty to life, and the smell and feel of greenery about us help soften some of the more harsh elements of everyday life. There's actual data to back up this good feeling. Research shows that working with and handling plants lowers blood pressure, eases the feelings of stress, and generally makes us feel better. Not only are we enriched by beauty, but growing a healthy house plant gives us a sense of control over our lives, and a sense of reward as the plant thrives.
The American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) uses plant growing as a fundamental part of its therapy plans. They develop horticulture programs for the elderly and disabled in nursing homes, for surgery and chemotherapy patients in hospitals, and gardening plans for the residents of group homes and prisons.
AHTA relies on the fact that plants appeal to everyone's senses, even when those senses are somewhat diminished. The use of richly or brightly colored plants are exciting or soothing to the eyes. The smells of foliage, soil, moisture and fragrant flowers can make us feel peaceful and serene or evoke memories. The Association also makes frequent use of textural plants in their therapy. Touching plants calms us, whether it is performing the tasks of softly wiping the leaves, pinching out the tips of a wayward vine or merely stroking the soft fuzzy leaves of a panda plant.
In the medical field, exposure to plants has been shown to reduce the amount of time spent in a hospital after surgery as well as reducing the amount and potency of pain-killers requested by patients. In a study at the Sloan-Kettering Institute, breast cancer surgery patients gathered their strength faster, increased their ability to focus attention, and reduce their depression, merely by walking regularly in a garden.
These positive effects witnessed by the medical community are also evident in the working world. Not only can plants actually clean the air in an office building, but the positive feelings developed by being around plants can effectively help reduce fatigue and mental stress associated with a high-pressure job. In an article in the Journal of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences in 1996, plants not only raise humidity levels, making the workplace more comfortable and less "itchy", but the moisture given off by plants seems to suppress the growth of airborne microbes.
In a study by Washington State University, people with plants in their work environment were twelve percent more productive and had lower blood pressure than those without plants.
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