Bringing the Outdoors In, to Let the Stress Out

“Your mind is a garden

Plant seeds

So flowers can bloom

And fruits can ripen

Make it your paradise”

The Struggle:

We spend more than 85% of our lives indoors, which makes it so easy to get lost within the confines of four walls. Our bodies weren’t built for a nine to five desk job, continuously fixated on a computer screen. Of course, this doesn’t mean we can all just quit our jobs and give in to wanderlust. It’s challenging to incorporate the natural world into our routine. Sure, we can step outdoors and take a walk, or plan a weekend trip at the park, but we always return back to indoor spaces—back to piling dishes, pressing phone-calls, and approaching deadlines.

The Science:

South Korea is a stressed out country. The values of success and upward mobility are instilled into children at a young age, creating a competitive academic environment, which evolves into an even more competitive work environment as these children become young adults. Working long hours (100+ hours a week) was regarded as a sign of grit and drive, so much that Korean lawmakers had to introduce a law capping the work week at 52 hours.

Scientists at the Chungnam University in S. Korea conducted a study on young male adults in the Korean workforce, to see if interactions with indoor plants could potentially reduce stress levels. Over the course of a few days, they conducted psychological assessments after these men either 1) tended to a houseplant or 2) worked on the computer for 15 minutes. The results showed that feelings of comfort and relaxation increased significantly when they cared for plants, compared to taking a break on the computer.

Additionally, NASA conducted a study proving that certain houseplants actually remove harmful chemicals (benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene) from the indoor atmosphere of your house. Keeping plants can not only promote stress relief, but can also improve the air quality in your home!

The Solution:

We don’t have to always go outdoors to enjoy nature! Caring for a small houseplant on your office desk or kitchen island can provide a mini-dose of stress relief. Bringing the outdoors inside, whether that be through a small succulent, an indoor herb garden, or even a tropical orchid can help boost your mood and make you feel a little bit more relaxed. Here is a list of houseplants suggested by NASA, that purify air and are low maintenance (even for the blackest of thumbs):

  • English ivy

  • Janet craig (Dracaena fragrans)

  • Devil’s ivy (pothos)

  • Peace lily

  • Mother-in-law’s tongue

Sriram Palepu