Taking care of oneself in college can be a hassle during this time of year, with final exams and impending papers hanging over the upcoming weeks like judgment day. It’s a time marked by stress, and the last thing students want to worry about is taking care of others. However, caretaking can be mutually beneficial even when the going gets tough—especially if the fellow in need happens to be a houseplant.
When it comes to plants, science is overwhelmingly positive about the benefits of having a plant in the bedroom or living space can be. They provide a host of physical and mental benefits and pay us back for their good care more efficiently than many of our human roommates.
The biggest benefit plants offer involves reducing an issue we often overlook—indoor air-pollution. According to a 2013 HealthLine article titled "Importance of Plants in the Home," "Indoor air can be as much as 12 times more polluted than outside air in some areas, due to compounds in paints, furnishings, clothing, and building materials."
Given the amount of time we spend indoors, this can be an issue in poorly-ventilated spaces such as dorm rooms during the cold winter months. By removing indoor toxins from our confined and often contained space by owning houseplants, the risk of illness is also greatly reduced.
The same HealthLine article also details a study from the University of Agriculture in Norway, which found that having a healthy plant in your home "decreased coughs, sore throats, fatigue, and other cold-related symptoms by more than 30 percent." The researchers attribute this to higher humidity levels and reduced amount of dust plants provide.
Houseplants make surprisingly good study buddies as well. The American Horticultural Therapy Association states the presence of plants "increases self-esteem, improves mood, reduces stress and depression, and increases concentration" in its "Benefits of Horticultural Therapy" web page.
The added optimism, and therefore better performance, we receive from plants isn’t the most outlandish of claims when we consider how we’ve appropriated plants culturally, as psychology Ph.D. Jonathan S. Kaplan points out in "Plants Make You Feel Better," a Psychology Today article from 2009.
Think about it: Plants appear at our weddings, holidays and even at our funerals as a way of spreading joy or dulling pain. We build parks within our cities for that tranquility and "breath of fresh air" that doesn’t necessarily come with being outside in our denser urban environments. These plants and green spaces literally stop us from suffocating while simultaneously bringing us back to our more natural roots.
Giving a loving home to a potted plant won’t guarantee an A on your next exam, but it certainly increases the likelihood that you’ll be able to think more clearly when the time comes to hit the books. Urban legend has it that green is the most creative color, so why not add a little to the dorm and breathe a little easier? Plants don’t ask for much, just a little water, sunlight and room to breathe—the same as any of us.