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Plants for Happiness

A program for teens and young adults affected by anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and eating disorders to find healing through gardening.

Photo of Madeleine So20
13 10

Written by

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

In a study from NASA, research shows that certain indoor plants are able to improve the indoor air quality and remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other toxins from the air. Other articles and studies have also proved that certain plants can relieve, anxiety, stress, lower blood pressure, improve concentration and productivity, and in general bring up one’s mood. One particular experiment studied the effects of flowering plants and foliage in hospital rooms of patients recovering from abdominal injury. Patients in the control group were in hospital rooms without any plants while the other patients were in a room with plants around. In the summary of the experiment and findings, the author writes, “Patients in hospital rooms with plants and flowers had significantly fewer intakes of postoperative analgesics, more positive physiological responses evidenced by lower systolic blood pressure and heart rate, lower ratings of pain, anxiety, and fatigue, and more positive feelings and higher satisfaction about their rooms when compared with patients in the control group.” Lastly, a study by Masahi Soga, Kevin J. Gaston, and Yuichi Yamaurac have studied the positive impact of gardening and horticulture on one’s health. My idea for the is a program called Plants for Happiness that will allow teens and young adults affected by anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and eating disorders to come together and grow plants as a way of therapy, comfort, and to benefit their rooms that they may bring their plants back to. This program appeals to this population’s needs by providing a safe and comfortable space with the materials needed for the teens and young adults to learn and have the responsibility of growing something. Participants will have a chance to spend time in the company of someone also in the process of healing to provide support and friendship with one another while learning about how to better take care of and love themselves just as they take care of plants.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

This program will be serving teens and young adults dealing with mental illnesses that are in the anxiety disorder, mood disorder, and eating disorder categories. Participants will benefit from this program by gaining the chance to make friends and grow with each other. In addition, the participants will be able to learn about growing plants, and how they can apply the responsibility and care of plants to themselves.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

There have been other ideas and plants that talk about building gardens, greenhouses, or general structures for plants to be in hospitals for patients to see and enjoy, but my idea is on a smaller scale in which young patients can interact with people around their age and grow their own plants in a safe space with the provided materials. Plants for Happiness will be more successful because it is a program that allows teens and young adults to take on the responsibility of growing plants themselves while building a understanding community; the program has more of a purpose for plants and the opportunity for people to have something to care for while getting the chance to alleviate any stress and sadness and gain companionship with other young adults going through struggles.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

I am a highschool student in grade 10 taking an environmental science class. Attached is my blog throughout the class this year.

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Other

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

While talking with a friend that used to have clinical depression, I learned that she read many studies about depression and the effects of different treatments, including a study that showed the positive impacts of plants on patients with anxiety and depression. I became curious about the effect that plants on people’s mental state, and wanted to make a program that could introduce young people to gardening as a form of therapy after researching more about the positive effects plants can have.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

According to the first definition of peace in the New Oxford American Dictionary, peace is defined as “freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility...mental calm; tranquility”. The afflicted individual’s peace of mind is impacted by their mental health and environment around them. Plants and the planet can be used to improve the surroundings of the teens that are affected by mental illnesses (by growing plants). Plants for Happiness bridges peace and planet by using nature to improve the one's mental health and overall happiness.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Plants for Happiness will partner with hospitals and support groups in order to allow teens and young adults with mental illnesses in the anxiety disorder, mood disorder, and eating disorder categories to give them the option to participate in the Plants for Happiness Program. Participants will have a chance to find support through other young people that they may meet while learning how they can use gardening and plants as a way to relieve stress, find comfort, and responsibility. Plants for Happiness prioritizes the socialization between similar age teens and young adults while nurturing plants.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Some advantages of this program are that it works on a smaller scale in local communities and does not need an extremely long time to see effects.

Geographic Focus

The program will start off focusing in California, but can expand to the rest of the US.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

The project idea can be carried out for at least 6 months with participants attending regularly at least once a week to allow plants to grow and for participants to spend time with each other.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

This inspired (1)

Celebration for All


Join the conversation:

Photo of Shikha Dixit

Hi Madeleine, It is so inspiring to see a young participant to work on such a contemporary issue of 'mental health'. I wish you all the best in your journey.

Photo of Madeleine So20

Thank you so much! :D

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Madeleine So20 thank you for sharing this idea. Great research background.

Here are a couple of extra articles focusing specifically on children with psychological issues:

This is slightly different but I found some interesting models on gardening and autisms including kits (I like the idea of exploring providing kits to families):

Regarding the location, here is an example of a garden within a hospital:

In order to clarify the experience journey of your users (young patients) I would suggest using this template

Regarding the peace component, I wonder if you could look at implementing these gardens in neighborhoods with high level of violence. See for example:

And see this very inspiring project in NY:

Good luck as you continue your research and refine your idea. Looking forward to seeing your idea evolve!

Photo of Madeleine So20

Thank you for the extra information! :)

Photo of Eric Wilburn

Hi Madeleine,

I love this idea as nature is such a wonderful way to create a safe psychological space for belonging to occur. I am curious as to what kinds of interactions you have seen between people when they are in this space? Is it more lively, more calm, is there a lot of interpersonal interaction or more intrapersonal?

Thank you! Eric

Photo of Luz Gallo

Wonderful Idea! I loved the fact that this idea gives plants a role of healers and not only of beings to be taken care of. How could this also include a cultural component and engage the participants to grow local plants or endangered plants?

Photo of My Nguyen

Maddie, I am most impressed by the background research on the impact plants can have on mental health. Always good to start research and projects off with background research! Done like a true scientist! I love the idea of picking specific plants that have shown to decrease anxiety and speed up the healing process such as lavender. Being an educator to young adults I see the need for programs to help students deal with emotional stress. Mental health is often overlooked and should not be. Giving students a way to cope with this stress in a way that is healthy for them and the environment seems to be a good option. Dima and Melinda asked the questions I also had. It would also be interesting to see if you could create kits for patients to take home and plant and care for as well. Love the idea :)

Photo of Dima Boulad

Hello Madeleine So20 ! Congrats on submitting your idea, this is very impressive to be aware of these challenges. I really appreciate the one-on-one community building that this idea can have, and the ripple butterfly effect it can create. Can you perhaps walk us a little bit through the experience? If I am a patient at the hospital, will I get to choose my plant and keep it in my room? Take care of it with my roommate, or floor mate? Did you already start to think of the systems that can trigger and aid interaction and communication?

Photo of Madeleine So20

Thank you for taking the time to read my idea! As for the structure of the program, I plan for the idea to be an offsite greenhouse (transportation can be provided) near hospitals and rehab facilities. The meetings will likely start off with time to talk to one another, planting time, and time to snack on some plants and chat some more. The program should not run for more than 2.5 hours, it is a short time for relaxation with some company. Each participant will be able to choose their own plant to grow, and will be able to take it home when it is fully grown.

Because participants will most likely be going to the program on a regular basis, spending time with one another and taking part in activities together, bonds will naturally be formed over time. I hope that spending time with others also facing struggles will be able to create a sense of community between the participants, and provide support for each of the individuals. This is still a work in progress, so thank you for your feedback!

Photo of Melinda Kramer

What an inspiring idea! I'm wondering about the location of sites -- will it be a greenhouse or garden connected to the hospitals or care centers, or will participants need to travel off-site? What plants will be offered for participants to grow? What would their times in the program look like (i.e. once all the participants arrive for their weekly time together, will there be a structure to the meeting, how long will it be, who will it be led by?). Thank you for sharing!

Photo of Madeleine So20

Thank you for taking the time to read my idea! To answer your questions, I plan for the idea to be an offsite greenhouse (transportation can be provided) near hospitals and rehab facilities. In some of the attachments to this submission, I have suggested certain plants that can have calming and air-cleansing abilities (such as the spider plant that can remove formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, benzene, and xylene from the air, and lavender, which emits a calming fragrance that can relieve stress, improve mood, and promote restful sleep). There will be a structure to the program, most likely starting off with time to talk to one another, planting time, and time to snack on some plants! The program should not run for more than 2.5 hours, it is a short break from the madness of the week.

Photo of Morgan C

This is a wonderful idea! It's so interesting to know the positive effects plants can have on the humans that care for them. Good luck with your project!

Photo of K Takaha18

Great idea! I love how you are combining two vary drastic things. I had no idea that plants could help patients with anxiety disorders. You provided research from credible sources that show that you are confident that this project will be successful. One question that I was wondering is where will patients have access to the plants? Will plants be given to each individual patient? My suggestion is that there could be a communal greenhouse at each hospital or rehab facilities that allows patients to spend time in their during recovery. Keep up the great work!