If work has you stressed out, there may be a simple solution to reducing it — by staring at a plant.
Researchers in Japan conducted a study of electric company workers and found there were changes in the stress felt pre- and post-plant-staring.
“At present, not so many people fully understand and utilize the benefit of stress recovery brought by plants in the workplace,” lead author Dr. Masahiro Toyoda of the University of Hyogoin said a press release. “To ameliorate such situations, we decided it essential to verify and provide scientific evidence for the stress restorative effect by nearby plants in a real office setting.”
The study was conducted in two phases. One was a control period sans plants and the other was an intervention period when the participants were able to view and look after a small plant. Researchers measured psychological stress in participants through the State–Trait Anxiety Inventory, which is a commonly used measure of anxiety arising from adverse situations and personality.
There was a definitive ratio of participants who had a significantly lowered pulse rate after three-minute rest while interacting with their plant. The participants chose from six plants, including foliage plants, cactus and bonsai plants, to keep at their desks next to a PC monitor.
Researchers discovered that people who reported high anxiety levels before looking at a plant slightly lowered their scores after doing so, CNN reported. An additional 27% of employees had a significant drop in their resting heart rates.
The study, published by the American Society for Horticultural Science, confirmed the effect of gazing onto plants for a few moments and actively caring for it when an employee felt tired.
"It's something we inherently knew, but has suddenly been quantified. And so now, we're seeing the numbers behind the reasoning," Dr. Charles Hall told CNN. Hall is the Ellison chair of international floriculture at Texas A&M University.
Still, looking at and taking care of plants didn’t reduce anxiety in everyone.
Some saw their pulse rate and anxiety increase while others witnessed no significant change.
"I think the anxiety among those in the study where their anxiety increased, it was because of that particular phenomenon that all of a sudden they're responsible for taking care of a plant and then all of a sudden the plant's not doing well and they have some anxieties from that," Hall said.
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