Music and gardens are the two most natural types of therapy that exist for human beings – benefiting both our psychological and physiological wellbeing. This revelation came from revered neurologist and author Oliver Sacks (July 9, 1933–August 30, 2015) in his essay “Why We Need Gardens.” Walt Whitman knew this truth too, as did John Muir, and countless other creative minds, artists, and authors over the centuries. There is just something inherently essential about our love of nature and living things.
Whether music and gardens are able to heal the mind by activating the creative parts of the brain and triggering the imagination, or they form an important connection between the brain and the hands (as experienced in the hands-on approach of gardening or playing a musical instrument), I believe they could be the first steps to self-actualization, empowerment, spiritual enlightenment, good health, and healing.
In my own life, I’ve often turned to music when I’ve faced hardships and challenges, experienced loss or dramatic changes. Lately, as I approach new beginnings in my life, I have also grown a newfound affinity toward cultivating and caring for houseplants. My new motto must be “collect them all,” because I can’t seem to stop! I have become slightly obsessed (in a good way) with learning about indoor plants and surrounding myself with them – making my home a sort of “urban jungle.” The internet fondly calls this phenomenon an “urban jungalow.”
If you like plants as much as I do, you too may be an #ecowitch. But I digress.
Benefits of Bringing the Outdoors Inside
Besides being aesthetically pleasing and calming to the spirit, plants are also beneficial to our health.
There are many scientifically proven reasons to bring greenery indoors. According to the EPA, our homes can have up to “10 times more pollutants than the outdoors,” caused by chemicals in paint, household cleaners, air fresheners, cosmetics, upholstery and furniture, and more. To combat these air pollutants, plants omit oxygen, making the air we breathe cleaner.
NASA indicates that plants can remove “up to 87% of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) every 24 hours.” Some plants can remove chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene, xylene, and ammonia from the air, which have been linked to health issues ranging from severe headaches to cancer.
Back in 1989, the NASA Clean Air Study found that common house plants helped detox the air in the space station, which means we can all use the air purifying superpowers of plants in our homes too!
An infographic from LovetheGarden.com outlines some of the best plants that naturally clean the air.
Some of my favorite houseplants include palms and ferns. Many plants in these categories are also considered pet-safe plants, for those of you who have cats and dogs, but not all. (A big one to avoid, for example, is the toxic Sago palm. You can find the full list of toxic and nontoxic plants from the ASPCA.)
When it comes to the health benefits of indoor plant life; however, they don’t just clean the air. They may actually save your life too!
A study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that women who live in areas surrounded by nature live longer than others. Their mortality rate is 12% lower than women living in plant-free areas!
In addition, studies suggest that bringing the green indoors helps reduce anxiety, improve concentration and productivity by up to 15%, and boost your overall mood. I definitely feel much happier since turning my formerly plain concrete box-like house into a lush, green indoor jungle. That’s for sure!
As for music and gardens: I’ve combined my love of the two by placing two parlor palms, a handful of tillandsia air plants, a cat palm, a ponytail palm, an orchid, a cactus, and some sunflowers in my living room, surrounding my record collection. Now I can play my favorite music while relaxing in my indoor garden.
What indoor houseplants do you love most? I’d love to hear your thoughts!