'Tis the season to hibernate indoors for the foreseeable future—at least until meteorologists stop throwing around terms like "bomb cyclone" and "icy tundra" to describe current conditions. But while heading outside might feel like a special kind of torture, it's also not entirely necessary to reap the benefits of spending time in nature.
Indoor plants don't just provide some welcome escapism from ankle-deep slush puddles—they can actually improve your overall health, to boot. Scientists have found that just looking at greenery can help reduce anxiety and pain, so consider this your excuse to build a bona fide jungle in your living room.
Check out some of the impressive health benefits of indoor plants below.
Plants reduce stress levels.
You likely already know that exercise is a doctor-recommended stress reliever. But according to research, you might experience even more of those endorphins—as well as lower blood pressure and cortisol levels—by gardening or spending time around plants. One 2008 study even showed that patients living in hospital rooms reported less anxiety when the rooms were furnished with greenery.
They help you focus better too.
Hot tip for the office: Keeping a potted plant on your desk might be an easy way to get ahead. A 2014 study conducted by the University of Exeter showed that after researchers provided plants to a previously sleek and spare office environment, productivity improved by 15%. Employees also reported improvements in memory and mood.
They filter the air.
Skip expensive air purifiers, and haul in the greenery instead—it's a NASA-recommended strategy. When seeking out the most effective ways to filter the air in space stations, researchers found that certain plants seriously performed: Snake plants, ficus, bamboo, and ferns all top the list.
They help you breathe easier.
Remember your grade-school biology? In addition to cleaning the air, plants recycle the carbon dioxide we exhale back into the oxygen via photosynthesis.
They help you heal faster.
Believe it or not, just looking at plants can temper your perception of discomfort. In a 1993 study, researchers put white panels, abstract paintings, and landscape photographs in different hospital rooms. Remarkably, the patients looking at the landscape photographs didn't just report less anxiety than the others—they also needed less pain medication. Scientists hypothesize that by reducing cortisol levels and improving mood, plants can help accelerate the healing process—something to keep in mind as we trudge through the remainder of cold and flu season.