When we feel in control of one aspect of our lives, however small, we feel more able to tackle the challenges that remain. It’s thought that taking ownership or responsibility of a plant can provide this feeling of mastery, making us feel more confident and easing anxiety.
This is especially beneficial in the latter years of one’s life, when a range of factors make it more difficult to feel ‘in control.’ As we age, our bodies change and become less reliable; external parties may decide where and how we live, and we might be uprooted from our homes and moved to new and unfamiliar environments.
Though evidence shows that dwelling with plants is itself beneficial, active interaction with plant life is where the greatest impact can be felt. Research with elderly participants in an institutional setting found that those who cared for their own plants were more alert and interacted with fellow residents and staff more frequently. Residents who were appointed plants to care for reported feeling happier, more active, and felt more in control. The study also found that residents required lower levels of care, when compared with those who did not participate; a significant shift.
Working with soil, watering, re-potting plants, and being awarded responsibility are some of the forms that plant interaction can take. None of these things are big changes in themselves, nor do they require much time, but when we master small things, it makes the big things feel less daunting. Similarly, this shift in attitude can enable us to let go of events in our lives that are beyond control.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think that plant-mastery translates into self-mastery? Do you think plants would help your elderly relatives?