How Air Pollution Affects Your Mood (And How to Treat It with Plants)

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By Staff

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For the longest time, we’ve lived our lives in the cities without giving pollution a second thought. Then, someone realized that just like our food intake and the rest of the factors that affect our quality of life, air pollution might qualify as a culprit for increasing mental health issues among urban dwellers. It turns out, they’ve had a point: consistent exposure to air pollutants causes a number of different reactions in the body that ultimately lead not just to mood changes, but also anxiety, depression, and other forms of cognitive impairment.

Studies aside, who wouldn’t feel stressed, anxious, and depressed living in cities that literally deprive us of oxygen? However, now that we understand the link between our moods, mental health, and air pollution, we can do so much to nip the issue in the bud and help ourselves heal with the help of Mother Nature, while we simultaneously help our planet heal.

Air, health, and your mood

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For skeptics among you, the connection may seem slim, at best. However, let’s take a look at a few factors in our lives that directly affect our mood, and you’ve likely been in similar situations yourself. For example, when you fail to get a good night’s sleep, how likely are you to deliver top-quality work at the office the next day, or stay focused without a headache taking over your full attention?

Well, air pollution causes airway irritation, congestion, worsening allergies, which directly affects the likelihood of developing sleep apnea. Dealing with poor sleep quality, insomnia, and sleep apnea can be enough to cause severe fluctuations in your mood. Add to that, allergies, breathing difficulties caused by pollution, and other side-effects of polluted air, and you get a real buzz-killer in the cities.

Are we breathing happiness?

But even beyond your mood, it seems that pollution has a more long-term effect on how we live our lives. A study conducted in China showed that cities with increased pollution caused people to feel more unhappy, be less productive, have poor cognitive performance, all the way to increase the number of premature deaths.

It stands to reason that our urban lifestyles are becoming more affected by what we breathe, and we need to take preventative measures as well as healing tactics to reduce the effect of pollution on our wellbeing.

Green up your own personal space

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When you can’t go to nature, let nature come to you – or to your home, to be more precise. We can all benefit from adjusting our own personal environment by adding more plants that help clean the air of pollutants and thus improve our health and wellbeing. Examples of plants you can add to your home include the Areca Palm, Golden Photos, Spider Plant, and Peace Lilies. They are all-powerful air cleaners that can improve the quality of air in your home.

Add to that, you can help your plants to their air-detoxing job by looking into best air purifiers to add to your home, especially if you have pets and you’re prone to allergies – a little backup can go a long way to improve your home environment. Moreover, you should consider switching to non-toxic cleaning supplies that won’t unleash many harmful ingredients into your home air, as natural ingredients can be equally potent without the harmful side-effects for your lungs.

Add emerald to your office

Finally, another place where you spend the majority of your time and that can have a negative impact on your exposure to pollution in your office. Although you can choose to carpool to reduce your carbon footprint or switch to taking the metro or riding a bike, the hours you spent in the office are the ones with the greatest potential to harm your health.

To prevent and minimize air pollution at the office, you can also rely on Mother Nature and low-maintenance plants. You and your colleagues can tend to a few pots of the Boston Fern, the Weeping Fig, and the Snake Plant, and you’ll make sure that the air you breathe at the office is significantly less polluted.

Spending time in nature

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While not everyone can afford to move to a farm and live surrounded by the woods and lakes, adding a few more regular trips to nature can help improve your mood, your health, and ultimately your quality of life. Simple ways to achieve that would be to join a hiking group over the weekend, camp with your kids during the holidays, and take up a sport that will have you outside more often.

Studies have shown just how powerful this green time can be for your health and your mood. All those stress triggers in your life tend to boost your cortisol levels while surrounding yourself with green means you’ll actually reduce cortisol levels. The restorative might of the woods also helps your lungs and your heart, lowering your blood pressure, regulating your breathing patterns, and allowing you to reduce fatigue.

We’ve done too much damage to the quality of air already, and we cannot expect the damage to be undone overnight. However, we can certainly change some of our habits, turn to natural solutions, and enrich our lives with plenty of plants so that we can benefit from pollutant-free air.

Updated on Aug 6, 2019  |  Originally Published on Jan 1, 1970

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