Yesterday, I went to ikea for two things: a kettle and some curtains. I left with 8 different fake plants and neither a kettle nor anything resembling a curtain.
Why did I do this? Because I have depression, and I read somewhere that having plants in your home can help with that. Plus, I didn’t like any of the kettles and I don’t know how to hang curtains.
Winter is coming, as the Game of Thrones fans keep reminding us, and with winter comes grey skies and sad rainstorms. The Netherlands has never been particularly known for its sunny weather and last time I spent winter here I felt the season pretty harshly. I’ve already invested in a UV light to give me a boost of Vitamin D in the mornings. But now that the temperature is dropping and the sky keeps coming out grey in the wash, I wanted to make a preemptive move against seasonal affective disorder. Plants seemed a lot easier than painting my room yellow and taking three months off work to hide until the weather gets better.
Now, there are blogs that will tell you that plants help ease depression – but every time I try to check their sources, I just find them linking to other blogs. Not exactly rigorously researched. After some snooping, I found a couple of studies; one, that argues that houseplants have been used to lower stress levels in college dorms with some success. Ulrich et al‘s work on stress recovery found that research participants who were shown a stressful movie and then exposed to nature settings had a measurable reaction, as opposed to participants who were exposed to urban settings immediately after having their stress levels raised.
These studies all involved real plants. The kind you tend to lovingly and water everyday. I couldn’t find anything that indicated that fake plants could be used instead of real ones, though. Jonathan S. Kaplan writes in Psychology Today that the improvement in mental health caused by plants could be due to distraction, novelty, caring for something, perceived control, or improved air quality – and if that’s the case, then it’s likely that my fake plants won’t cut it.
But maybe there will be a placebo effect? I am pretty pleased with myself because of how I’ve positioned them around the apartment.
I have tried many times to grow plants in my apartment. I’ve tried the hardier succulents, delicate ferns, and herbs that I told myself I would use in cooking but ended up forgetting about because the spaghetti sauce comes pre-seasoned. Every single time I have attempted to grow something, it withered and died before my eyes.
The last time, I had kept some plants alive for months. I was so proud of myself! When I skyped my parents on the weekend, they would ask me how my plants were going and I would proudly show them the tomato bushes and daisies soaking up spring sunlight on my balcony. I was a garden nymph with a green thumb!
And then I went to Japan for the summer. When I came back, there was nothing left.
In retrospect, I should have asked a neighbour to water them or something. It didn’t even occur to me. I’d hoped that because they were fully-grown and thriving that they would survive a couple of weeks on their own. Like a parent convinced that their teenager is ready to stay home alone for the night with nothing but a TV remote and $20 for pizza.
But this time – this time – my plants will not die on me! I will not feel the creeping sense of shame whenever I look at the empty pots littering my balcony, because now the pots are inside and they have very life-like moulded plastic in them! I can’t kill these!
(I might have nearly set one on fire. That’s a story for another blog)
Fingers crossed for that placebo effect, ay? I’ll let you know how I go.