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Mental Moment: Gardening

Nurturing wellness from the ground up
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ANDREA ZHAO/THE VARSITY
ANDREA ZHAO/THE VARSITY

Yes, it is true — studies from the University of Essex and more show that engaging with nature does in fact improve human wellness. This has been utilized in hospitals and health centres, where “healing gardens” have been put into place in order to de-stress staff, visitors, and patients, as well as to promote recovery. Furthermore, a new occupational therapy for psychological disorders that involves taking care of plants, called horticultural therapy, is now a growing treatment. 

Therefore, it can be assumed that plants could aid college students with our generally busy, onerous lifestyles — and students can easily reap the astonishing perks of gardening right in their college dorms. 

Further research and meta-analyses show that the benefits of floriculture reach much further than simple stress relief. Plants can improve mental and physical health by boosting people’s cognitive functions, including their memory retention and concentration, because of the calming environment plants create. 

Ornamental plants can also be found to strengthen interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships, since ornamental horticulture can promote compassion, and promotes swift healing of illnesses.. 

Additionally, floriculture heightens job performance, work quality, and efficiency, since exposure to plants simultaneously bolsters feelings of vitality and curtails fatigue. Similarly, ‘green exercise’ — any sort of physical activity performed outdoors — reduces anger, depression and anxiety by reducing cortisol levels. Finally, studies find that many species of plants, like philodendrons, naturally filter air, which improves respiratory health by reducing airborne toxins like benzene from the air that a person inhales. 

Plants are also great because, if you want to get a plant, you have a diversity of options to choose from. Some come in bright colours; some provide a light, pleasant scent; and some can be used as fresh herbs to flavour and enliven home-cooked meals. Moreover, you have opportunities to adorn their pots and add accessories, which can act as décor and brighten an otherwise banal room.

Getting green exercise can be as simple as choosing a small plant of any variety and following a few simple steps to nourish your new companion. As a result of the pandemic, more plant nurseries than ever give you the option to order their products online for curbside pickup and delivery, so you can buy your dream plants and pots from the comfort of your own bed! Keeping a plant is pandemic-friendly and busy-college-student-friendly.

I bought a couple four-inch potted peperomias for my college dorm. After decorating them in adorable pots, I marvelled at their bright, marbled leaves. I simply had to water them twice a week while keeping them under indirect sunlight to enjoy minimal stress and a 47 per cent decrease in indoor formaldehyde levels. 

Since nurturing many plant species is a low-maintenance activity, and small plants are relatively cheap to buy, the choice is obvious. As you start your first year here at the University of Toronto, it might be worth it to pick up gardening as a hobby — you might just feel a little bit better as you manage this difficult transition. Who knows; you might just graduate with both a diploma and a green thumb!