By Patricia Buzo, author of A Family Guide to Terrariums

Everyone knows terrariums are excellent for housing humidity-loving plants in an attractive way. They are easy to maintain and make for a wonderful conversation piece when used decoratively. But to me they are much more than that, they are good for my soul.

Why I Needed Plants in My Life

Let me start by giving you a little insight into my life and as you read on see if anything rings true to you. I've had a chronic illness since I was 15. I remember when I was first diagnosed it felt like life had unfairly given me a major blow. Why me? What had I done to deserve this? Of course as time went on it simply became my normal and I came to accept it as part of what makes me, me. What I personally find more difficult to accept is the fact that I suffer from depression and anxiety which sometimes feels crippling. It's not easy to deal with a brain that has a mind of its own. But I haven't been content to just let it take over like a dark cloud keeping me from finding any enjoyment in life. I don't let myself just sit and rot away mentally and physically. But don't let that statement fool you, it's a constant battle and not something a person can just will away with a positive attitude. So in addition to traditional therapies I've also used plants, and more specifically terrariums, as a way to not only cope but find joy on a daily basis. 

Plants are living beings that need human care in order to thrive, and it feels good to be needed. Yes of course there is an abundance of flora that grows naturally in the wild, but I'm talking about plants we surround ourselves with on purpose, like in our garden or around the house. To be a major part of helping something grow and flourish gives you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment which in turn boosts your self-esteem. 

Even more satisfying is to successfully care for plants that might be labeled as "difficult" or "high maintenance". Most of the time they get this reputation due to their need for a constantly maintained environment of high humidity and "damp but not wet but not dry" soil requirements, sheesh. That's tough if not impossible to replicate in our homes. But lucky for us terrariums have come to the rescue. They provide the perfect home for plants that we might otherwise not be able to properly provide for: moss, ferns, rare jungle plants, etc.

I've surrounded myself with a variety of plants grown both within terrariums and out, and it gives me a strong sense of purpose on a daily basis. Every morning after I roll out of bed, admittedly reluctantly most of the time, I have a ritual of going from terrarium to terrarium checking on the inhabitants.  If I'm having a bad day mentally, this routine also offers a bit of distraction so I'm not dwelling on my problems. A sprinkle of water here, a trim there, and everything in my little world is at peace and I'm ready to start my day.

5 Ways Terrariums are Good for the Soul

Even though I could probably go on and on about why I think plants, and by extention terrariums, are essential to our mental health I'm going to condense it into 5 main ways they are good for the soul.

terrarium benefits list

  • Gives You a Purpose

The first way owning plants/terrariums is good for you is that they make you feel needed, somewhat like having a pet but with a bit less responsibility. Why? Because a plant is a living thing that needs your care and attention. And in return it will show you gratitude by giving you a beautiful display of lush growth you can enjoy looking at.

  • Feel a Sense of Accomplishment 

Caring for terrarium plants is satisfying because you are accomplishing something positive. It also offers relief for depression and anxiety because if you are busy with your plants you won't be as focused on your problems.

  • Creates a Peaceful Atmosphere

What is your ideal getaway (mental or physical)? Do you picture a quiet place surrounded by greenery away from the hustle and bustle of city life? Surrounding yourself with plants right in your own living space can offer a mini getaway anytime you need one. Make your house a home and bring some plantlife indoors.

  • Connects You to Nature

You can improve your mental state simply by connecting with nature. How? Use all of your senses! Take some quiet time and reflect in the natural surroundings you have around you. Visually examine the minute detail of a leaf, do you see any interesting patterns? Take a deep breath and see if you can detect a smell. Does it smell good or bad? Reach out and touch it, is it smooth? Rough? Are the veins raised and bumpy? By taking just a few moments to immerse yourself in nature you will feel a sense of calm and joy.

  • Inspires Gratitude 

How can a mere plant inspire gratitude? First, we can be thankful the world wasn't created in black and white. But not only that, we aren't restricted to just one type of plant with the same pattern, size, and color. Quite literally we have something for everyone when it comes to plants. There is a myriad of colors, textures, shapes, sizes, and smells in nature. We also feel gratitude and appreciation that these plants can have such a positive effect on us.

terrarium with pine trees

Above: A tranquil scene in a terrarium bowl created by Doodle Bird Terrariums

If you've read this far I will venture to guess you are a special kind of person, you are a plant person. As Maria Failla author of the book Growing Joy puts it, "plant people are kind people. Think about it: of all the hobbies in the world, we choose caring for [plants]. We heighten our senses and stretch ourselves to understand what the plants need, and spend hours learning, researching, and doing our best to help them thrive. It takes a special person to choose to do that with his or her spare time". So remember that not only are we benefitting from keeping planted terrariums as discussed above, but we are also giving something back in a mutual relationship...a healthy relationship made of love, care, and satisfaction.