As the rain roars on and our nature deficit hits a high, it’s time to dust out your empty office nooks and bring the forest indoors. Researchers wax poetic on the full-bodied benefits of crowding our living spaces with greenery; after all, plants are proven to improve concentration, reduce stress and depression, and even boost compassion, according to a number of studies.
But Teresia Hazen, the mastermind behind Legacy Health’s nationally recognized horticultural therapy program, says recognizing the health benefit of plants is only the first step. “People understand that we need nature,” says Hazen. “The bigger issue is having people understand that they can’t save up meeting their nature need for a two-week vacation once every summer.”
And while sunny coastal days are still a few months away, Hazen’s work at Legacy uses research as a jumping-off point to help people understand how easy and accessible nature experiences can be. Skip the medical journals and start simpler: clear out a corner, commit to some comfy seating, and make your way through the aisles of your local gardening store in search of pretty plants. As Hazen says, an indoor therapeutic garden space “needs to be something that is very meaningful to the person who owns it.” That might mean switching out old standbys like potted succulents and spider plants for newcomers that catch your eye, like the deep-colored buds of winter-blooming cyclamen.
Hazen makes a point to say that it’s important to keep your indoor garden seasonal, so you’re less likely to lose interest once warm weather rolls in. Mix up your domestic ornamentals with flourishing natives like the adorably named piggybank plant or the evergreen-family swordfern, so you’ll see changing colors and burgeoning blooms all year round.
The takeaway? The more you love the rich diversity, vibrant colors, and odd angles of your houseplants, the more you’ll want to baby them, and the more they’ll foster rejuvenation in all parts of your healthy self. “We all need to use our physical, mental, psychological, social, and spiritual selves to have balance,” Hazen says. “When we manage our green space, we can pretty much meet all those needs and have a really healthy interaction with our world.”
One final piece of wisdom: be a responsible plant owner. and when in doubt, “water on Wednesdays.”
For more information on the Legacy Health gardens and events held throughout the year, check out its website.