Sanctuary In Our Concrete Jungle: How plants can better your health and wellbeing

Contributed by Niko Soe, Co-founder and Director of Sindomall. 

Avatar. Lord of the Rings. It’s obvious how lush green landscapes in these movies are tied to feelings of home, safety and tranquillity. Movies of a more dystopian nature however, depict colourless landscapes full of metal and concrete surroundings.

Simply put, we are hard-wired to feel at peace when surrounded by nature. A decades-old concept adopted by the Japanese known as Shinrin-Yoku, or ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’, posits that moments spent in nature will help us de-stress, re-focus, feel more grounded, and relax.

Since it is admittedly very difficult to find many lush pockets of nature in Singapore – and neighbourhood parks just don’t cut it sadly – we can try to set ourselves up for success by creating our very own green spaces at home. It’s a change that you probably never realise you need until you give it a try. This was my personal experience with being a plant owner as well.

Plant care can benefit us in many ways, from cultivating better habits to providing a comforting environment for us to live in. Here are some reasons to go green.

Niko and the first two bonsais in his collection

Your plant buddy can make you a more balanced, patient human

Three years ago, I could be described as a hot-tempered, violent person. I used to hit people full-time for a living, before I found my love for plants and set up Sindomall with my business partner in 2020. As a professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter and full-time martial arts coach, my job could be described as anything but serene or relaxing. Being an MMA fighter is a profession that takes a tremendous mental and physical toll on the body. Today though, I would describe myself as far more balanced, calm and patient.

With many injuries sustained in between fights and feeling increasingly listless, I decided to purchase my first plant – a bonsai. Popular opinion would have you believe that bonsais are extremely difficult to care for, but I was up for the challenge and spent a lot of time reading up about bonsai maintenance. Before I knew it, I ended up buying a second, and then a third.

In the process of throwing myself into this new hobby, I realised how caring for these plants taught me a lot about patience and put me in a more composed state of mind. Just like the stressors from desk jobs, this mental and physical toll builds up over time. When tending to plants, the act of focus and intention creates a more grounded sense of self, an improved mood, and more positive outlook on the various aspects of my life.

You take your mind (and eyes) away from digital devices

These moments of focus and attention also contribute to greater mindfulness – translating to lower stress levels, a stronger capacity for focus, better memory retention, and lowering your blood pressure.

Mindfulness has been brought to the fore the last three years, as many of us found working from home a double-edged sword. We became glued to our devices more than before, working way past office hours because the lines between work and home blurred – virtual overload poses major health issues down the line. Healthcare professionals recommended that stressed out individuals look towards adopting a mindful practice, taking as little as five minutes every morning or evening to recentre ourselves.

Ironically, many mindfulness apps – while well-meaning – exists on our phones. This creates a situation where we are a single alert away from failing in a mindfulness practice. However, when you intentionally remove yourself from your devices and put your full attention to tending to your garden – pruning leaves, watering plants, repotting them, or even just checking their leaves – you are achieving the goals of a mindful practice. Of course, simply using your own home garden as a space for stillness and meditation works too!

Greening your environment makes for a wonderful escape from the city

Immersing yourself in a well-tailored green environment at home has a host of health and well-being benefits

If you’ve ever gone for a hike in the mountains or trek through the woods while on holiday, you would have experienced the incredible sense of stress relief and tranquillity that comes with being surrounded by nature. Residing in a metropolitan city like Singapore makes it just a tad more difficult to find that escape as often as we’d like.

Recreating green spaces right in our own homes is a wonderful way to emulate that experience, starting and ending every day in a relaxing environment. Studies have shown that being surrounded by greenery helps us recover from mental fatigue, slow down our heart rates, reduce high blood pressure and lowers anxiety. A 2022 research piece found that even a small amount of greenery helps to reduce stress. We’re talking a potted plant on your work desk, or a full-fledged green wall – whatever your interest level is or your space permits, even injecting a little bit of green will positively impact your health and well-being.

You can participate in a green community

Finally, even the biggest homebodies need social interaction to stave off feelings of isolation and depression. Human beings are social creatures, and having a community around you helps to support not only your mental but also physical health.

I’ve witnessed many individuals on our Facebook page look towards other members of the community for advice and share pictures of their plants and gardens, sparking off lively conversations and fast friendships with other like-minded individuals.

This vibrant social interaction based off a common interest does a lot to keep individuals engaged, positive and growing in their plant care journey. This is how my own journey as a plant owner began as well!

Ultimately, there are many benefits to being a plant owner and picking up a plant or two for your homes (or offices). If it seems daunting, I recommend that you start slow and pick up the pace as your get more familiar. Eventually, you might find yourself levelling up and dabbling in a greater variety of rare and exotic plants, picking up new skills and habits in the process.

Sindomall would like to extend a special offer to all readers of The Wellness Insider! All first time purchasers can head over to the app from this link, register with us and immediately have S$2 credited to your account.

Images: Sindomall

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