Is having plants in your home beneficial for your mental health?

Woman tending to her flowers. Image: Freepik
Woman tending to her flowers. Image: Freepik

When it comes to decorating our homes and office spaces, one of the key features in this space-beautifying exercise is making sure you have the right plants to bring the space to life. It’s true that some of us only use plants for their aesthetic appeal, but they do some much more than beautify a space, they can also be an aid in improving general wellbeing and mental health.

Speaking to TRUELOVE, plant scientist and medicinal plants researcher at the University of Stellenbosch, Prof. Nokwanda Nox Makunga, says that plants are really important for both physical and psychological health aspects of humans.

 “As humans, we are meant to have a deeper connection to nature and plants despite our current lifestyles that have seen us live and work in spaces that are not connected to nature,” she says.

READ MORE: Kfm's Sherlin Barends shares her mental health journey

She adds that research has shown that plants invoke emotion, comfort, and a sense of awe and splendour.

 “Plants give us a sense of wellbeing, altering the mood, relieving stress and even assisting with overcoming physical ailments such as pain,” she says.

 “Having plants around allow us to meditate, be mindful of our surroundings, and have a sense of self. Seeing green is very calming for humans.”

Having plants in your working space 

A study that was published earlier this year by researchers from the University of Hyogo in Japan looked at the effects indoor plants inside an office set-up. They found that just looking at a plant on your office desk for at least 3-minutes could already improve one’s mental state.

“This natural object incorporates elements that may induce comfortable feelings such as vitality, beauty, affection and so on, which is speculated to help get away from work-related thought,” the study says.

“Gazing at a plant creates separation from stressors and provides the participants opportunities to remove themselves from the strain of work if only for a few minutes each time.”

Creating your own healing garden at home 

Healing gardens are becoming a growing trend in the medical community with many healthcare facilities around the world incorporating these green spaces into their surroundings. But they're not limited to big facilities, you can create one in your own space. 

Whether it’s a portable one that you keep on the balcony of your apartment, or if you have an outdoor natural space where you can start planting - it works wherever you can create the space for yourself

“Aromatic plants produce volatiles that actually bind to our brain receptors offering a sense of calm,” she starts. “ Plants such as sage, lavender, rosemary and so on are a great way to start off… but any plants are good to have around.”

The Natural Gardening Bureau offers 3 tips on how you can get started on your own garden: 

  1. Grow plants that you find pleasing.
  2. Add a focal point for meditation or reflection. This could be a special plant, rocks that look interesting, or anything that would work for you inside your garden.
  3. Encourage butterflies, birds, insects and other wildlife to the garden for their healing energy. You can do this by choosing plants that supply nectar and food for insects.


Prof. Nokwanda Makunga, together with industry colleagues, will be hosting a masterclass on how to create your own healing garden at the Free Your Mind event (a mental health initiative) taking place on 31 October 2020. You can book your spot here.

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