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Why looking after my plants has become such an essential part of my self-care routine by Lauren Geall

At The Little Botanical, we love how the humble houseplant not only looks beautiful but comes with a whole host of health-boosting benefits. We hear from Lauren Geall, Digital Writer at Stylist and devoted houseplant fan on the power of plants for improving wellbeing.

I grew up in a home surrounded by houseplants. From the swiss cheese plant nestled at the top of the stairs to the towering philodendron which stood in the corner of the living room, my childhood was set against the backdrop of these leafy giants. From time to time, I’d help my mum care for the plants. But despite living in a home full of greenery, I never really understood their purpose. They looked nice, but I couldn’t grasp why my mum spent so much time watering, dusting and preening them. To me, they were simply places for cobwebs and spiders to hide. 

It was only once the pandemic hit back in March 2020 that I truly came to understand their appeal. I’d picked up a few plants during my time at university, but at the time I simply saw them as decorative objects to cheer up my dreary student halls, and caring for them as a chore that kept them alive. But as the stress of lockdown restrictions began to hit, I found myself increasingly drawn to my little leafy collection. Alongside millions of others, my interest in houseplants grew – spurred on by the time I was spending writing about plants as part of my role as a digital writer at Stylist. Before long, I began dedicating more and more of my free time to watering, pruning and caring for my plants. Soon enough, I was hooked. 

But it wasn’t just the satisfaction of watching my plants grow that made me so interested. Over the course of those weeks and months, I started to notice how calming the whole process of caring for my plants was – from the sensory experience of the soil on my hands to the ritualistic process of removing dead leaves. Before long, looking after my plants became a vital part of the self-care routine I rely on to look after my mental health: a moment of peace amid the chaos of daily life. 

I’m far from the only one who has experienced this. You only need to type the words ‘plants and mental health’ into Google to get a sense of how powerful connecting with nature both inside and outside the home can be for your wellbeing. It’s something my colleagues and I have covered extensively at Stylist. Not only has simply looking at plants been shown to reduce stress levels in a work environment, but research has found that creating an indoor garden has the potential to boost your creativity levels and increase your cognitive function. I’ve even spoken to a woman who lists gardening as one of her primary coping mechanisms for dealing with her depression and OCD.

But what is it about interacting with plants that makes it such a beneficial activity for your mental health? Alongside giving you a way to interact with nature  – something that’s been shown to help you switch off and unwind – looking after plants is also a great way to engage your mind and learn something new. It is, after all, a hobby – an activity which gives you space to express yourself, experience the satisfaction of learning something new and take your mind off of things. Added to the way caring for plants appeals to the senses and helps us slow down, it’s hardly surprising that so many people use plant care as a form of self care.

It’s been three years since those early days of lockdown, but I still find myself turning to my plants when I’m feeling stressed, overwhelmed or in need of a little mood boost. From the collection of succulents perched happily on my desk to the trailing devil’s ivy that cascades over my bookshelves, my plants are the first place I turn when I need a moment to breathe and reconnect with the present. It’s something methodical I can do to help myself switch off when my brain is in overdrive. And it’s a nice reminder to look after myself – something I often forget to do when I’m feeling anxious, stressed or under the weather. 

If you’re interested in reaping the mental health benefits of looking after plants, then it’s relatively easy to get involved. All you really need is a plant and some free time to dedicate to your new hobby, and you can dive right in.

Of course, choosing which plant (or plants) to bring into your home can be a tricky decision. Not only do you need to find the right plants to suit your space (taking into account light levels, humidity and temperature), but you also want to pick plants that are relatively easy to care for, at least in the beginning. The last thing you want is for your ‘relaxing’ hobby to keep you up at night when your new plant starts dropping its leaves. You also want to pick a plant that is relatively fast-growing, to ensure you’re able to reap the spoils of your efforts. To get you started, I’ve put together an edit of three of my favourite plants from The Little Botanical. Keep reading to check them out.

  1. Devil’s Ivy

Alongside being pretty hard to kill, my devil’s ivy rewards minimal effort with plenty of growth, which is great when you’re first getting started. You can opt to display yours in a hanging pot or trail it from a shelf or kitchen counter. 

  1. Begonia Maculata

The begonia maculata’s stunning leaves and easy-going nature make it a brilliant option for beginners looking for a unique and eye-catching plant to add to their collection. Mine has rewarded me with plenty of growth since I moved it to a spot with lots of light about a year ago. 

  1. Boston Fern

Add this sprawling plant to your bathroom to give your space the ultimate spa-like feel, perfect for switching off at the end of the day. Because it doesn’t require much light, it’s also a great plant for those shady corners.

Thank you to our guest blogger, Lauren Geall from Stylist for this week’s blog. 

In Team TLB, we couldn’t agree more! Caring for plants is a great stress release and helps you create some essential downtime at the beginning or the end of a busy day. 

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