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Bringing Nature Inside Our Four Walls

Photo by Beazy on Unsplash

There's no question that our generation spends most of our time indoors. Now with mobile devices and the internet, more and more of our needs can be fulfilled without us needing to leave the comfort of our homes. We can get groceries via online shopping, buy our meals with food delivery apps, connect with our friends through social media. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this situation: with lockdown measures and online classes, some youth may have spent the whole time being cooped up in their rooms, not realising how long it has been since they last set foot outside.

This is not healthy. Many people might not know that indoor air can be five times more polluted than fresh air outside, by harbouring dust, allergens and excess carbon dioxide. Poor ventilation in houses can cause these pollutants to build up and cause breathing problems, headaches and eye irritation. Besides, indoor spaces often lack adequate sunlight, which is crucial for our bodies to produce vitamin D that keeps our bones and teeth healthy. Even the best artificial lighting cannot hold up to natural daylight, and reduced exposure to it can cause fatigue and low mood.

As Malaysians, we might be tempted to escape the scorching weather by turning on the air conditioning at full blast, but this is not the best solution either. Excessive air conditioning can lead to problems like dry skin, allergies and sinus congestion.

At a time when we are more concerned with our health and air quality than ever, why not try to incorporate more natural elements into our lifestyle? During the pandemic when we have been disconnected from nature inside our urban homes, plants can potentially play a more important role in our lives. The plant industry has been among few which have recorded growth in the past year, with local nurseries reporting an increase in sales, due to visitors having a newfound interest in collecting and caring for houseplants during the lockdown. Plant owners find solace in their plants as they can be a reliable source of comfort and distraction from the chaotic events happening around us.

Houseplants make for great quarantine pals as you get to watch them flourish as you pour your love and attention into them, which can help alleviate your sense of loneliness as you get to care for something other than yourself. Humans have an innate instinct to connect with nature and other living things, which experts describe as biophilia, literally meaning ‘love of life.’ It is a reciprocal relationship where your plants respond to your care by improving your quality of life. An important aspect of nature is that it can make us feel better by reminding us of our positive experiences outside, which can be especially helpful for those of us who have been feeling cabin fever from being stuck indoors.

Monstera deliciosa and fiddle leaf fig. Photos by Kara Eads and Scott Webb on Unsplash.

Plants are all over social media too! They have become increasingly popular among the youth, and you may have come across photos and videos of visually attractive plants like the Monstera deliciosa and fiddle leaf fig on Instagram and Pinterest. During the pandemic, indoor plants are not just vibrant home decor, they have also become a way to take back control of your living space. This has also given rise to plant influencers, or ‘plantflucencers’, who have managed to gain massive followings by showing off their plant collections and plant care tips.

Houseplants are not just pleasing to the eye, they are very beneficial for your health and well-being as well. Research shows that even a small burst of green in your environment can help you relax by improving your blood pressure and cortisol levels, which can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in the long run. Indoor plants can also boost productivity - studies have shown that biophilic workspaces that have lots of sunlight and a view of greenery can help you focus and retain information better. Besides, the Clean Air Study by NASA found that certain indoor plants act as natural filters that are effective in removing harmful particles like ammonia, carbon monoxide and benzene from indoor air, which can prevent several health effects.

Even though taking care of plants is not as demanding as having a pet, some people can still be put off by the amount of attention needed to make sure your plant has the right amount of water, sunlight and nutrients. Plants take time to grow, so some people might get impatient when they

do not see instant results and their plants have not immediately grown as big as they want. Plant owners also might not always be successful with their plants the first time around, as they might randomly die off due to disease or pests, which can make people disappointed and want to give up. However, the satisfaction you feel seeing your plants thrive after the love and effort you put in can make it all worth it.

Having plants is a relatively affordable and accessible hobby. Given the current circumstances, there are many online stores you can shop from that offer a wide range of houseplants and get delivered quickly and securely. Alternatively, you can explore local groups on social media to find out about plant exchanges and giveaways to get some plants for free. However, you should always do research on the plant before buying it to make sure it can survive in your indoor conditions. For beginners, you should start with low-maintenance plants that are more resilient and can tolerate some neglect.

As good as plants are, they cannot fully replace the benefits you get from experiencing nature outside, and the feeling of being trapped indoors may not completely go away. You should still make it a point to do some form of outdoor activity daily, be it stepping out to your backyard, walking around your neighbourhood or just hanging out at your balcony.

By Jordan Lam Tien Wei


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