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Stressed at your desk? Get a plant, researchers say

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Photo: Moyo Studio/iStockphoto

Awaji, Japan — Looking to sow the seeds of serenity at the office? A recent study from the University of Hyogo suggests that simply adding a small plant to your workspace and occasionally tending to it may soothe the effects of stress.

For five weeks, researchers observed 63 Japanese office workers who worked eight hours a day, five days a week. Each participant completed an anxiety test and had his or her pulse measured twice a day throughout the study when experiencing fatigue. The first week served as a control period and did not involve plants. When feeling fatigued during the next four weeks, the participants were directed to take a three-minute rest break in which they observed one of six personally selected plants placed near the computer monitor on their desk.

Results show that 27% of the workers exhibited a significant decrease in heart rate when observing plants during times of fatigue and, overall, worker anxiety levels decreased significantly. Researchers believe the participants’ “soft fascination” with nature provided a mental break.

 

“Our findings in the workplace … suggest that if employers would provide active encouragement for workers to take [three-minute] ‘nature breaks,’ the mental health of their employees would improve,” the researchers wrote. However, these benefits may be temporary, as “the level of restorative benefit from passive observation of plants may lessen over time as the novelty wears off and interest in the static presence of a plant diminishes.”

The study was published online Dec. 9 in the journal HortTechnology, a publication of the American Society for Horticultural Science.

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