The Flourishing Effect: The Science of Houseplants and Happiness

science of houplants and happiness - neon pothos on desk with mug and laptop

The Green Connection: Unveiling the Power of Houseplants

The connection between humans and nature is often overlooked in our increasingly urbanized world. Yet, this bond, known as biophilia, is essential to our well-being. Biophilia, a term popularized by biologist Edward O. Wilson, suggests humans have an innate desire to connect with nature and other life[1]. One way this connection manifests is through our affinity for plants, a key pillar in the science of houseplants and happiness.

Houseplants do more than beautify our spaces. They can enhance our mood, reduce stress, and boost productivity. A study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that interacting with indoor plants can reduce psychological and physiological stress[2]. Another Environment and Behavior study reported that greening urban areas can improve mental health and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety[3].

In this article, we delve into the science behind these benefits, exploring how and why houseplants can profoundly impact our psychological well-being. Join us as we unearth the power of plants and learn how to harness their benefits for a happier, healthier, and more productive life.

Beyond Greenery: The Mind-Boosting Benefits of Houseplants

Houseplants are more than just decorative elements. They are silent companions that can significantly improve our psychological well-being. Let’s delve into the three main benefits: stress reduction, mood enhancement, and productivity boosts.

Stress Reduction
Interacting with houseplants can help reduce stress. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Hyogo in Japan found that participants demonstrated reductions in anxiety and heart rate after placing a plant on their desk as compared to a control period without small plants at their desk for each participant [4].

Mood Enhancement
Houseplants can also enhance our mood. A study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that active interaction with indoor plants can reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity [2]. Caring for plants can make us feel happier and more relaxed.

Productivity Boosts
Finally, houseplants can boost productivity. A study from the University of Exeter found that employees were 15% more productive when their workspace was filled with just a few houseplants, as plants made workers more physically, cognitively, and emotionally involved in their work.[5]

The next section will explore the science behind these benefits, helping us understand why our leafy friends profoundly impact our psychological well-being.

The Root of the Matter: Unearthing the Science Behind Houseplants' Benefits

Now that we’ve explored houseplants’ benefits let’s delve into the science behind these effects. How do these silent, leafy companions help us reduce stress, enhance mood, and boost productivity?

Air Quality
One of the ways houseplants contribute to our well-being is by improving air quality. Plants are natural air purifiers. They absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen during photosynthesis, but they also absorb toxins from the air. A famous NASA study found that certain houseplants can remove up to 87% of air toxins in 24 hours. Improved air quality can lead to better concentration, reduced headaches, and better mental clarity [6].

Concentration and Creativity
The presence of plants can also enhance concentration and creativity. A study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that sustained attention improved when plants were present in a workspace [7]. The green, calming presence of plants can possibly help create a more conducive environment for thinking and creativity.

Restorative Environments
The concept of “restorative environments” is a key part of understanding the psychological benefits of houseplants. According to environmental psychologist Stephen Kaplan, restorative environments are places or situations that help us recover from the mental fatigue of everyday life [8]. Houseplants can help create restorative environments in our homes or workplaces with their calming and life-affirming presence.

In the next section, we’ll provide practical tips on incorporating houseplants into your daily life to harness these benefits.

Practical Tips for Harnessing the Science of Houseplants and Happiness

Now that we understand the science behind the psychological benefits of houseplants, let’s explore some practical ways to incorporate them into our daily lives. Here are some tips and suggestions:

Choosing the Right Houseplants

Not all houseplants are created equal. Some are easier to care for than others, and some have been shown to have greater benefits for air quality. In a recent article, we have several suggestions for easy-to-care-for plants that have been documented to improve air quality.

Incorporating Plants into Your Space

Where you place your plants can also impact their benefits. Here are some tips:

  • Workspaces: Place a plant or two in your workspace to boost concentration and productivity. Just having a plant within your line of sight can have positive effects.
  • Living Spaces: Incorporate plants into your living room or bedroom. They can help create a calming, restorative environment.
  • Bathrooms: Many plants, like the Snake Plant and Peace Lily, thrive in the humidity of bathrooms and can make the space feel more spa-like.

Remember, the key is to choose plants that you enjoy and that fit with your lifestyle. Even a single plant can make a difference, so start small and grow your indoor garden over time. Please read our most recent article on placing houseplants for more tips.

The Last Leaf: Reflecting on the Transformative Power of Houseplants

In this exploration of the psychological benefits of houseplants, we’ve unearthed some fascinating insights. Houseplants are more than just decorative elements; they are powerful tools for enhancing our mood, reducing stress, and boosting productivity. The science behind these benefits is compelling, with studies showing that plants can improve air quality, enhance concentration and creativity, and create restorative environments.

We’ve also provided some practical tips for incorporating houseplants into daily life. Whether it’s a Snake Plant in your workspace, a Spider Plant in your living room, or a Peace Lily in your bathroom, these leafy companions can transform your spaces into healthier, happier environments.

We encourage you to consider the benefits of houseplants in your own life. Even if you’re not a seasoned plant parent, starting with just one plant can make a difference. As you nurture your plant, you might find it nurturing you in return.

Finally, while the research we’ve discussed supports houseplants’ psychological benefits, there’s always room for further exploration. As we continue to navigate our increasingly urbanized and digital world, the role of nature in our lives remains a rich field for research. Who knows what new insights we might discover in the future?
In the meantime, why not bring a little bit of nature indoors? Your mind and body might just thank you for it.


[1] Wilson, E.O. (1984). Biophilia. Harvard University Press.

[2] Lee MS, Lee J, Park BJ, Miyazaki Y. Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in young adults: a randomized crossover study. J Physiol Anthropol. 2015 Apr 28;34(1):21.

[3] Kuo, F. E. (2001). Coping with poverty: Impacts of environment and attention in the inner city. Environment and Behavior, 33(1), 5–34.

[4] Toyoda, M., Yokota, Y., Barnes, M., & Kaneko, M. (2020). Potential of a Small Indoor Plant on the Desk for Reducing Office Workers’ Stress, HortTechnology hortte, 30(1), 55-63.

[5] Nieuwenhuis M, Knight C, Postmes T, Haslam SA. The relative benefits of green versus lean office space: three field experiments. J Exp Psychol Appl. 2014 Sep;20(3):199-214.

[6] Wolverton, Billy C. et al. “Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement.” (1989)

[7] Berto R, “Exposure to restorative environments helps restore attentional capacity.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, Volume 25, Issue 3, (2005)

[8] Kaplan S, “The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, Volume 15, Issue 3 (1995)