It’s somewhat of a bold claim: make space for nature in your life and it will make you a better man. But it’s true for several reasons. Sure, they’re not without their own set of rules and most require you to put in some effort, but anything worthwhile never comes easy, right?
Michael O’Brien is an urban farmer and the founder of Hommes + Gardens. He not only offers traditional gardening services and landscape design but also a coaching program—think of him as a personal trainer to build your green thumb muscle. “Being a ‘plant dad’ can be challenging, but it comes with so many rewards and it’s not as difficult as most people think,” he says. “There’s nothing more satisfying than bringing a sick plant back to health—and with so many resources available online, it’s pretty easy to diagnose and treat.”
That’s the thing about tending to plants. It’s not particularly difficult but any living thing requires you to be responsible—forcing you to think about something other than yourself. That can be a helpful reminder once in a while. You’re giving something life which, in turn, guides you to be more selfless.
You have to develop a routine and make sure you’re giving your plants what they need. And while it does demand you tackle some chores—watering, trimming and the occasional fertilizing—you get a lot back in return. “My morning routine consists of a cup of coffee in the garden while the sun is still rising,” says O’Brien. “It gives me the opportunity to not only make sure my plants are healthy, but a moment to reflect before I embark on my day.”
What’s more, they improve your surroundings in a myriad of ways. Of course, having plants around improves your air quality, since they essentially do the opposite of what we do when we breathe: release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. In fact, a well-regarded NASA study discovered that houseplants act as natural air purifiers and humidifiers by removing up to 87% of toxins in a day while releasing much of the water they absorb back into the air.
“Having healthy, happy houseplants can elevate a room and doesn’t have to cost much,” says O’Brien. Some well-placed greenery makes your place look sophisticated and tells guests that you’re a man who can take care of things. O’Brien says you don’t need a lot of space to get the benefits of plants. Grow some herbs in your window and you’ll be able to upgrade your cooking or garnish a cocktail with ease.
Gardening in any form—whether you’re planting a vegetable garden or simply outfitting your living room with some succulents—is a way to express yourself, try new things and bring nature into your life. The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku (or spending time in nature) has been scientifically proven to lower stress levels, reduce blood pressure and have an overall relaxing effect on the body. But a 2015 study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology showed that regular interactions with houseplants—simply watering, touching and smelling—has the same stress-reducing effects as spending time in a forest.
So, you see, having plants around you really will make you a better person all around. These seemingly inanimate objects actively relax you and nourish you while delighting your senses. Not bad for something that just sits there, soaking up the sun and swaying in the breeze.