THE BLOG
04/08/2012 01:19 pm ET | Updated Oct 11, 2012

Spring Cleaning: Bring Plants Inside The Home

It's spring, and flowering plants are popping up outdoors in gardens and inside on store shelves. So, it's the perfect time to bring some of those plants to the windowsills and tabletops in your home.

Indoor plants can enrich our lives in many ways. One of the benefits is that they can help bring our stress levels down and put us in a better mood. There's research evidence that plants with more rounded leaves seem more relaxing than plants with sharp narrow leaves, so leaf shape is an important consideration as you pick out indoor plants. Also, our brains do a better job on mental tasks if there are plants around inside the home.

Indoor flowers and plants can also have a calming effect, helping you recover after exercises like a morning jog. On a different note, plants around the home help heighten creativity. For example, if you're writing a novel and need inspiration, keep leafy plants (as opposed to plants such as cactuses) in sight by your work area -- odds are you'll think more creative thoughts.

Flickr photo by blumenbiene

Moreover, the smells of flowers, in general, improve our mental state. Careful research has determined how particular floral scents affect us psychologically. The odor of hyacinths, a star of spring flower markets, makes us feel less tense. The smell of jasmine, which you can add to your home in the spring, but reaches its full glory during the summer, calms us. Dr. Bryan Raudenbush, at Wheeling Jesuit University, has found that people smelling jasmine while they sleep have improved quality (but not necessarily quantity) of sleep. After people who smell jasmine while sleeping wake up, they do mental tasks more rapidly and are more alert throughout the day. Another flower that helps with productivity? Violets. Their scent has been linked to faster learning.

Flickr photo by IvanWalsh.com

Lavender also has a calming smell. Lilies of the valley are hard to find as a potted plant or as cut flowers, but if you do come across some, bring them home; their scent is
relaxing. Research by Dr. Alan Hirsch at the Sense of Smell Institute has also shown that anxiety is reduced by the smell of roses, so they're a good investment.

If you decide to bring potted herbs into your home, make sure you include some rosemary. Its smell increases alertness and improves long-term memory. Sage's odor also enhances memory function and makes us feel more alert. Research by Dr. Hirsch has also shown that the smell of marjoram can help reduce stress levels.

Flickr photo by Vagabond Shutterbug

All in all, indoor plants are good for our psychological well-being. However, keep in mind that we all have extensive scent memory banks. If we have a particularly positive or negative experience while smelling a certain smell, we remember that scent-event association. Therefore, you may have had some scent-emotion links that aren't consistent with the general reactions to particular smells noted above, so never ignore your own associations to odors.

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