Sorenson: Growing plants a simple way to reduce stress levels for students

A strand of ivy climbs a shelf, weaving in between textbooks and boxes of granola bars. Rows of succulents in squat, colorful pots line a window ledge looking out on a college campus green. Taking in the streaming sunlight, a broad-leaved fern stands in the corner, wedged between a futon and a bunk bed. Augustana students should have plants like these in their dorms because the greenery improves studying habits, mental health and overall dorm life.

A study from the College of Agriculture and Life Science at Texas A&M found that work performed under the natural influence of plants is of higher quality and completed with a higher accuracy rate than work done in a space without plants. Having plants in dorm rooms will help students produce work of a high caliber, whether it be a research paper or a lab report. Plants have also been shown to improve concentration and productivity by up to 15%, according to a study from NASA. That 15% could be the difference between finishing homework by 9 p.m. or staying up to cram until 3 a.m.

Another study conducted at Texas A&M found that people who spend time outside every day are less likely to be depressed or stressed. Augie students are stressed by loads of homework, little sleep and schedules straining to balance classes, jobs and extracurriculars. Since most of the school year is during the cold winter months of South Dakota, students have limited time to spend outside. But indoor plants, as simple as a succulent, can simulate outdoor conditions, decreasing student stress levels.

Plants can also improve dorm living conditions. A study from the Agricultural University of Norway found that plants release about 97% of the moisture they take in, decreasing the likelihood of common colds. Research from NASA has also shown that houseplants can remove up to 87% of air toxins in 24 hours.

The residence halls can be a little gross — hundreds of students live in the same building, sharing dorms, bathrooms and common rooms. The janitorial staff keeps the facilities clean, but that many students living in a communal space inevitably leads to bacteria and sickness. If students have plants in their rooms, they can naturally eliminate toxins and decrease their chances of getting sick.

The idea of taking care of a plant may be daunting to some. Afterall, plants are living creatures that require care. But students don’t need a green thumb to keep a plant in their room. Aloe plants, lavender plants and fiddle leaf fig trees only require sunlight and a little water every week. Caring for a plant is minimal considering the major benefits of keeping one in a dorm.

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