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smal home office laptop houseplantAny toddler can tell you that “green means go.”

This is more true than ever. Science shows nature could be as important as a coffeemaker in your workspace at home. That’s a brash claim, since coffee’s pretty much the cornerstone of modern productivity, but studies back it up.

Plants improve your productivity in a few ways. For starters, they provide something called “attention restoration therapy.”

Fast Company explains University of Michigan’s Robert & Rachel Kaplan’s theory of “attention restoration therapy” as:

The gist of “attention restoration theory” is that our brains expend a lot of energy on tasks that require direct attention. This mental fatigue can only be restored when we give our direct attention a break. Sleep can do the job, but when we’re awake, we can also refresh direct attention by shifting our minds to an indirect, or effortless form of engagement. Nature offers just this type of absorbing, restorative distraction.

Went Green, Worked Better

I have never been so productive, or better charged after “zoning out” for a few seconds as I am in my new home with a view of a forest, and my new addition of several indoor plants. Whether it’s all the new windows, or the many-trees scenery they reveal, the increased light, or the plants I’ve added to the collection, on most days, something good is going on in my environment, something I’ve never experienced when working before… top-notch productivity.

The American Psychological Association says there’s a whole lot to this theory. They wrote this piece on plants and health, stating a view of nature goes even further than just improving attention. It can even get us out of the hospital faster. As the APA explains:

Nature doesn’t just have an effect on the mind. Roger S. Ulrich, PhD, director of the Center for Health Systems and Design at Texas A&M University, has found that nature can help the body heal, too.

In his most well-known study, Ulrich investigated the effect that views from windows had on patients recovering from abdominal surgery. He discovered that patients whose hospital rooms overlooked trees had an easier time recovering than those whose rooms overlooked brick walls. Patients able to see nature got out of the hospital faster, had fewer complications and required less pain medication than those forced to stare at a wall.

All those results come from just seeing plants. Imagine what happens when you actually have them near you. Fact is, plants clean the air. NASA has proven it. Some plants absorb toxins from the air, and all of them produce oxygen, making your space healthier and fresher.

I wrote on this at greater length last year, and you can read that post here.

Pick Your Plants

If you’re looking for plants for your space, consider big leafy tropicals that don’t need (or even like) direct sunlight — and are drought-resistant, in case you all get too busy and forget to water the poor thing for a couple weeks.

Watering an indoor plantGreat examples include varieties like the areca palm tree, peace lilies, bamboo aka reed palms, Boston ferns, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, and more.

If you have a sunny desk, consider a peppermint plant. Science proves its aroma makes us as much as 28% more alert, while improving our memory, and some studies show its scent can help suppress appetite. Or maybe you just get so productive you skip lunch. It’s possible! Similarly, both lemon balm plants and gardenias are also shown to stimulate brain activity.

If your home office has a lot of photocopying and printing, hang a Golden Pothos vine nearby, because research shows it fights the ozone those machines emit. Ozone, even in low amounts, can cause throat irritation and chest pain, and who wants that? I vote for the vine.

Another great plant for fighting toxins is the common English ivy, which is known to absorb volatile organic compounds rising from machinery, construction materials, and more. Got renos? Get ivy.

Ask a Pro For the Right Fit

If you’re scared to care for a plant, make sure you buy it from a good nursery where they can teach you how to love it before you take it to your home or office.

No matter where you work, you can find plants that will handle your existing lighting. So many offices are stuffy and airless. They need plants for better air, fewer toxins, and fresher smells. And we workers need them for our souls, even when we’re working from home. In the end, everyone wins.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.