by Anne Fellowes
There aren't many bad things that you can say about fruit plants. They feed us, they give us oxygen, they make our homes and gardens beautiful. But did you know that plants - particularly fruit-bearing plants - can be good for your mental health too? And you don't even have to eat the fruit to get the benefits! It seems incredible, we know, but plants really can have a major impact upon your mental health simply by existing in your vicinity! Here's how:
The 'Nature Cure'
People have sought and found solace within nature for centuries, but it's only recently that doctors and scientists have begun to take 'nature cures' seriously. The world is experiencing a sharp rise in mental health problems, particularly depression and anxiety disorders. This has driven the intellectual elite to ponder the problem and formulate theories, while the medical establishments of the world work hard at stemming the tide of sad, suffering people coming through their doors. Some thinkers - notably Richard Louv - have pioneered the idea that modern problems such as depression and ADHD can in some way be attributed to a lack of interaction with nature. And the theory is gaining a lot of traction - so much so that certain doctors are even beginning to prescribe courses of 'Naturopathy' for their depressed patients. It works, too. Studies have consistently found that patients exposed to the natural world experience significant improvements in their mental health.
Nobody is quite sure whether it's being outside, breathing fresh air, getting exercise and so on which improves one's mental health, or whether it has something to do with the landscape and its vegetation. In all probability, it's a combination of all of these factors. However, if you can't or don't have the time to spend a lot of time romping in the wilderness, bringing nature to you in the form of domestic plants can do your mental state a lot of good. Hospitals have established that placing flowering plants within the rooms of patients can seriously lift their mood and improve their state of mind - which in itself promotes healing. And rehab centers for those people who are suffering from addictions are increasingly encouraging their patients to care for houseplants. In the latter case, caring for the plants not only brings the aforementioned lifts in mood and improvement of mental health, but helps to bestow a sense of purpose, responsibility, and self-worth.
One of the notable aspects of many fruit-bearing plants is that, in order to produce the wonderful, nutrition-packed delicacies they so kindly bestow upon us, they need to undergo a lot of pollinating. In order for this to go according to evolution's plan, they often put out a lot of beautiful, scented flowers. It seems that these flowers have a far deeper effect upon us than we may at first realise. Plenty of us appreciate the beauty of abundant cherry blossoms, and delight in the scent of a flowering orange tree - but our delight in these things may well stem from a lot more than simple aesthetic appreciation. Science has found that floral scents really do make us happy, and psychologists have established that the presence of flowers in a room enhances the productivity, mood, and creativity of those within. A charming study into the emotional impact of gift-giving discovered that the most 'true' smiles were exhibited by those participants which received gifts of flowers. Notably, the gift recipients also described the flower-givers in far more positive terms than they did those who gave other (sometimes more ostensibly valuable) gifts. So, if you want to make someone happy and be liked by them into the bargain, buy them flowers!
The Perfect Gift
If, therefore, you have a suffering friend whom you want to help (and want to be thought well of by them as you do so), one of the best things that you can do is to send them a fruit plant. Not only will it feed their bodies, it will also nourish their minds. While we're not claiming that plants are a miracle cure, science has proven that they really can make an awful lot of difference to somebody's state of mind.