Nature’s relaxing effect on the mind has been well-documented, as well as its positive impact on overall feelings of wellbeing. However, the power of plants extends farther than many people realize. Studies show that having green plants in hospital rooms even speeds up recovery time for surgical patients and reduces the need for pharmaceutical painkillers. Outdoor healing gardens at hospitals have also made a comeback in recent years, as more and more research concludes that their benefits extend beyond simple beauty to physical and mental benefits.
Science behind the healing power of plants
Hospital environments can be stressful and unnatural to our body’s natural rhythms. Uninterrupted sleep, lack of privacy, regimented meals, and of course, feeling under the weather take their toll by causing not only physical stress, but anxiety and fear. Green plants have a naturally calming effect. In 2008, researchers at Kansas State University found that surgical patients who had plants in their recovery rooms reported greater satisfaction with their rooms, less painkiller usage, and lower blood pressure and heart rates. The plants had such a positive impact on patient perception that they reported greater happiness with the plants than any other feature in their room, even the television!
Cut flowers versus potted plants
Although cut flowers also enhance the hospital room experience, green and potted plants have the added benefit of providing air purification as well as horticultural therapy, which allows post-surgical patients to help care for plants themselves as they recover. Engagement and responsibility through live plant care takes the patient’s mind off pain or anxiety as well as motivates them to move around their rooms, not due to coercion or pressure, but due to interest and enjoyment.
Benefits of healing gardens
The power of greenery can go far beyond individual patient rooms. Studies show that even patients who have a view of greenery out their windows heal faster. Healing gardens at hospitals help adult and child patients alike find respite from the emotional fatigue, stress, and unnatural stimuli of the hospital environment. Hospital staff also report that gardens give them a restorative break and sense of wellbeing, allowing them to “recharge and refresh” before the see more patients.
The health effects of green plants are not limited to surgical patients, but can also help boost memory and learning, reduce stress, and enhance positive mood and thinking. For more information, see here.