The Pessimism Bias: When Things Seem Much Worse Than They Are

The Pessimism Bias

 

The pessimism bias is a cognitive bias that causes people to overestimate the likelihood that bad things will happen to them. This bias distorts people’s thought process, and can be detrimental to your emotional wellbeing, which is why it’s strongly associated with various mental health issues, and most notably with depression.

In the following article, you will learn more about this bias, and about how you can account for it in your thinking.

 

What is the pessimism bias

The pessimism bias is a cognitive bias that causes people to overestimate the probability that negative things will happen to them. This bias affects people’s thought process in various ways:

  • It can make you believe you are unlikely to get a job, even if you are well-qualified and did well on the interview.
  • It can cause you to feel that you are going to do badly on an exam, even if you are well prepared.
  • It can make you believe that you shouldn’t approach a person that you want to talk to, because of the false assumption that they will probably dislike you.
  • It can lead you to give up on trying to make a positive change that you want to make in your life, by making you think that you’re probably going to fail, no matter how much effort you put in.

Overall, this bias causes you to view events in an overly pessimistic way. As we will see in the following section, this affects you negatively, for several reasons.

 

The problem with pessimism

The examples that we saw earlier illustrate some specific cases where pessimism can have a negative impact on your thinking. By generalizing these examples, we can come up with the following ways in which pessimism can be detrimental:

  • Pessimism can cause you to avoid trying to accomplish things, due to the assumption that you will fail.
  • Pessimism can cause you to feel more anxious, due to the assumption that you are currently doing worse than you really are.
  • Pessimism can cause you to feel bad about past events, due to the assumption that things went worse than they really did.

As such, a pessimistic outlook is associated with various issues, including an increased prevalence of health problems, and a difficulty in adjusting to new situations. Furthermore, there is a general social stigma against pessimism, which can cause pessimistic people to feel rejected by others.

Unsurprisingly, depressed people are more prone to the pessimism bias. This is evident in the fact that depressed people are more pessimistic when predicting future events, compared to nondepressed individuals, even when they are given the exact same information with which to make their predictions.

As such, pessimism is considered to be one of the key symptoms of depression. Essentially, there is a strong correlation between pessimism and other depressive symptoms, such as sadness, hopelessness, and feelings of helplessness. This could be attributed to the fact that the areas of the brain that mediate feelings of optimism tend to show irregular activity in depressed individuals.

However, it’s difficult to conclusively state whether people are pessimistic because they are depressed, or whether they are depressed because they are pessimistic. Nevertheless, while the nature of the relationship between pessimism and depression is complex, what is clear is that the two are strongly associated with each other. This highlights why the pessimism bias can be problematic, and why it’s important to be aware of it.

Note: Humans aren’t the only ones who can suffer from an unnecessarily pessimistic viewpoint at times. Research shows that various animals also exhibit this kind of cognitive bias in various conditions. Bees, for example, exhibit a pessimistic bias when they are exposed to situations that cause them to feel anxiety, while some dogs exhibit a similar bias after being separated from their owners, even if it’s only for a short amount of time.

 

Positive pessimism

So far, we saw the many issues that are associated with having a pessimistic viewpoint. However, there are also situations where pessimism can serve as a valid cognitive strategy, that helps us make better decisions.

For example, research shows that the use of pessimism as a defensive strategy can help people perform better on various decision-making tasks. This is because pessimistic thinking encourages people to set realistic expectations for themself, while also encouraging them to prepare for possible difficulties that they might encounter in the future.

This beneficial effect is especially pronounced in situations which are perceived as risky. This is because, in situations where there is a high likelihood of a negative outcome, preemptive pessimism can help you prepare for those negative outcomes in advance, whereas being overly optimistic could mean that you end up being caught unprepared.

Based on this, we see that positive pessimism (also known as defensive pessimism) is a helpful strategy, which involves using your pessimism as a tool which promotes thinking through future events, and preparing for them accordingly. This helps channel pessimistic tendencies in a productive manner, that helps you feel empowered, rather than helpless.

In addition, pessimism can also be helpful as a coping mechanism:

  • Pessimism can help you prepare yourself for future disappointments. This involves telling yourself that you are unlikely to win something that you want, in order to help you prepare mentally for possible feelings of failure in the future.
  • Pessimism can also help you deal with past failures. This is called retroactive pessimism, and it involves changing your perception of past events which led to an undesirable outcome, so that in retrospect you can feel that this outcome was inevitable, which can help reduce your sense of disappointment.

Overall, based on this we see that while pessimism can be problematic in certain situations, it can also be beneficial when it’s implemented as a defensive cognitive strategy or as a coping mechanism. In the next section, you will read more about how you can mitigate negative pessimism, and channel it into a more productive mindset that can help you take advantage of pessimistic tendencies in order to make well-informed decisions.

 

Accounting for pessimism in your thinking

So far, we saw that people sometimes have a pessimistic bias, that causes them to overestimate the likelihood that bad things will happen. This bias can either affect you in a negative way, if it causes you to feel hopeless about your chances or to feel bad about your performance, or it can affect you in a positive way, if it helps you prepare for difficult situations or cope with negative outcomes.

The difference between the two forms of pessimism lies in how you channel your pessimistic outlook. For example, imagine a scenario where you have an important exam coming up in a few days. Even if you’ve done well so far in the course, the pessimism bias might cause you to assume that you’re going to do badly on the exam.

There are two ways in which this bias can affect the way you prepare for the exam:

  • Negative pessimism will cause you to assume that the exam is going to be hard, and that you’re going to do badly on it regardless of how much you study, so there’s no point in wasting a lot of time studying in the first place.
  • Positive pessimism will cause you to assume that the exam is going to be hard, but that you can do well if you prepare accordingly, so you should make sure to spend enough time studying.

The main difference here is that in the case of negative pessimism, the pessimistic viewpoint will make you think that your ability to do well on the exam is fixed, and cannot be influenced by your willingness to put in effort into studying. Conversely, in the case of positive pessimism, your pessimistic viewpoint will cause you to assume that the exam is going to be difficult, while at the same time promoting the idea that you should prepare accordingly, as doing so will ensure that you do well on the exam.

As a result, when you channel your pessimism in a positive way, the thought that the exam is going to be difficult ends up encouraging you to apply yourself and study a lot, so that you can deal with the predicted difficulty of the exam. This means that in this case, rather than making you feel helpless, having a pessimistic outlook can actually help you feel more motivated, and can prompt you to take action.

Overall, this exemplifies the difference between negative pessimism and positive pessimism. Specifically, while both forms of pessimism cause you to assume that a situation in the future is going to be difficult to handle, negative pessimism discourages you, and causes you to feel bad and give up prematurely, while positive pessimism encourages you, and prompts you to prepare accordingly.

 

Implementing positive pessimism using the think-through process

One of the best ways to implement positive pessimism is to use the thinking-through process:

“This thinking-through process may help individuals using defensive pessimism to respond to their anxiety by motivating the efforts necessary to avoid contemplated disaster. They construct different scenarios that illustrate the possibility of both negative and positive outcomes and alternative pathways to each…

…this thinking-through process functions as a way for them to acknowledge their apprehensions and negativity and then cognitively work through it—just as a cognitive therapist might help an anxious or depressed patient by pointing out maladaptive cognitions and slowly guiding the client to more adaptive ways of thinking by proposing alternatives, pointing out contradictions or overgeneralizations, and so forth…

Through this process, defensive pessimists feel better, feel less anxious and more in control, and their performance should thus be less likely to be disrupted by anxiety. As a consequence, they should also feel better about their performance after the fact.”

From Strategy-Dependent Effects of Reflecting on Self and Tasks: Some Implications of Optimism and Defensive Pessimism

Essentially, this means that you should use your pessimism in order to motivate yourself to prepare for difficult situations, so that you are better able to handle them.

Specifically, try to think through the situation that you feel pessimistic about. If you believe that you are likely to fail at something, ask yourself why you believe you are likely to fail, and what you can do to reduce the chances of failing. Try imagining specific scenarios that you think might lead to failure, and come up with solutions that will help you deal with them.

Going back to the example of believing you are likely to fail an exam, you need to first ask yourself why you think you are going to fail, and identify the areas that you believe will be problematic. Then, list the reasons why those areas are likely to be problematic, and figure out a plan which will allow you to deal with them effectively, so that you will be better prepared for the exam.

 

Final words on pessimism and depression

In this article, we saw how pessimism can either hurt you or benefit you, based on the way it affects your thinking. We also saw how you can channel your pessimism in a positive and productive way, that helps you prepare for the future or deal with past events.

However, as we saw at the beginning of the article, overpowering, chronic pessimism is considered to be one of the main symptoms of depression. While the tips in the article can be beneficial in mitigating the influence of negative pessimism in some cases, they are unlikely to solve pathological mental health issues. If you think that your pessimism could be a symptom of serious depression, consider seeking professional help.

 

Summary and conclusions

  • The pessimism bias is a cognitive bias that causes people to overestimate the possibility that bad things will happen to them.
  • In general, pessimistic tendencies can be detrimental to your health and wellbeing, which is why overpowering, chronic pessimism is one of the main symptoms of depression.
  • However, pessimism can sometimes be beneficial, when it helps you prepare in advance for risky situations, by ensuring that you are aware of any difficulties that you might encounter. This type of pessimism is referred to as positive pessimism or defensive pessimism.
  • The main way to channel your pessimism in a productive way is to use the think-through process. This involves using your pessimism in order to consider how future events might unfold, and preparing yourself accordingly, by anticipating problems that you expect to encounter, and trying to come up with solutions for those problems in advance.
  • Defensive pessimism can also be a beneficial coping mechanism, that helps you handle, from an emotional perspective, events where you might achieve a negative outcome, or past events that had a negative outcome. In such cases, defensive pessimism can make you feel that the negative outcome is inevitable or was inevitable, which can reduce your sense of disappointment.

 

If you found this article interesting, and you feel that you want to learn more about the topic, you can try reading a relevant book on the topic called: “The Uses of Pessimism and the Danger of False Hope“.

 


The Art of Brinkmanship: Walking On the Edge as a Strategic Decision

The Art of Brinkmanship Living On the Edge as a Strategic Decision

 

Brinkmanship is the act of pushing volatile engagements to the brink of active conflict, with the goal of achieving a positive outcome for yourself.

This strategy is used in widely applied in various areas, from high-stakes litigation, to international politics, and to interpersonal confrontations. In the following article, you will learn more about brinkmanship, and about how you can implement it as a strategy in the most effective way possible.

 

The history of brinkmanship

Though the underlying principle behind brinkmanship existed in various forms throughout human history, it was given its current name following a 1956 interview with John Foster Dulles, who was then the U.S. Secretary of State. When discussing the philosophy behind his foreign policies during the ongoing Cold War, Dulles famously said:

“The ability to get to the verge without getting into the war is the necessary art. If you cannot master it, you inevitably get into war. If you try to run away from it, if you are scared to go to the brink, you are lost.”

Naturally, this philosophy wasn’t lauded by everyone at the time. One opponent criticized Dulles for it, stating that he was:

“…boasting of his brinkmanship — the art of bringing us to the edge of the nuclear abyss.”

Consequently, the brinkmanship strategy gained prominence during the Cold War, where it was associated with the pervasive risk of a global nuclear conflict. Essentially, this strategy involved setting demands and being unwilling to compromise about them, under the assumption that the other side will fold, rather than risk escalating the situation.

The danger in this case lies in the fact that the other side might choose not to fold, which could lead to a cycle of continuous escalation, that would eventually culminate in a disaster. As one study on the topic states:

“This nuclear game of ‘chicken’ is called brinkmanship.”

Brinkmanship and Nuclear Deterrence: The Neutrality of Escalation

 

How to use the brinkmanship strategy effectively

The use of brinkmanship in personal conflicts

So far, we read about the history of brinkmanship in large-scale conflicts between the world’s superpowers. However, this strategy can also be used in more personal contexts, as we will soon see.

First, let’s start with a more in-depth explanation of what the brinkmanship strategy entails:

“Brinkmanship is the deliberate creation of a recognizable risk, a risk that one does not completely control. It is the tactic of deliberately letting the situation get somewhat out of hand, just because its being out of hand may be intolerable to the other party and force his accommodation. It means intimidating an adversary and exposing him to a shared risk, or deterring him by showing that if he makes a contrary move he may disturb us so that we slip over the brink whether we want to or not, carrying him with us.”

The Strategy of Conflict

Essentially, in it’s simplest form, you can think of brinkmanship as a scenario where two guys are arguing, and slowly escalating their threatening behavior, in an attempt to get the other guy to back down. The more threatening each person is, the more likely the other one is to back down, but also the more likely the two are to end in a violent physical altercation which neither of them wants.

By looking at this description, it becomes easy to see how brinkmanship applies in more personal conflicts, that we might encounter in our everyday life.

One study, for example, showed that brinkmanship can be a valuable strategy for consumers looking to get a better deal from their network provider. Specifically, implementing the brinkmanship strategy in this case entails threatening to leave the service provider in favor of a different one, if the current provider fails to give the consumer a better deal on their service.

If the move succeeds, which it often does, then the consumer ends up with a better deal from their provider. If it fails however, then the consumer ends up leaving the provider, a generally inconvenient process that most people would prefer to avoid.

Of course, it’s always possible to bluff, and just stay with the same network provider if the threat fails. However, one of the issues with this, as we will see in the next section, is that fact that the ease of bluffing can make this threat appear less credible, which reduces its efficacy.

 

Making your threat appear credible

In order to use the brinkmanship strategy effectively, one of the main things that you should focus on is on making your threat appear credible to your opponent.

A threat is credible only if it has a cost. This cost can include anything from the time and effort that it takes to make the threat, to the negative outcome that you will have to deal with should the situation escalate. The more costly it is to make the threat, the more honest it will seem to the person you are negotiating with.

The main way to make a threat look credible is to make it in a way that doesn’t leave you the option of backing down if the other person decides to escalate. For example, we saw earlier that the threat of leaving a network provider might fail to work, because the provider knows that if they don’t offer you a better deal, you probably won’t leave them despite the threat.

Essentially, since no one could force you to leave the provider if they fail to comply with your demands, the threat could be seen as an empty attempt to get a good deal. If there was a way to ensure that you would leave them if they fail to give you a better offer, then the threat of leaving would be a more effective tool.

As such, brinkmanship is most effective when the threat that you make involves a potential escalation of the situation, which is outside of your control. Essentially, if you leave the choice in your hand after making the threat, you only have two realistic options if the other person refuses to comply; you can either back down, or you can fulfill your threat (which is known in the literature on the topic as ‘going to the ultimate threat point’).

Since your opponent knows that you would generally prefer to avoid escalation, they realize that you will most likely choose to back down rather than fulfill your threat. As such, by placing the decision to escalate outside of your control, you are showing your commitment to following through on your threat, which makes it far more credible.

For example, in the context of the getting a better deal out of your network provider, you could say that your spouse asked you to ask for a better deal, and that if you are unable to find one, then they will force you to switch to a new provider.

Furthermore, this approach becomes even more effective when the threat that you make could potentially lead to escalation, but not necessarily. This technique, which is referred to as a probabilistic threat, makes your threat appear even more credible, since it is usually more realistic for you to make a threat if you know that disagreement won’t necessarily lead to maximal escalation. At the same time, the risk of escalation is still there, and still serves as a deterrent for your opponent.

For example, this could mean making a threat that has a 20% chance of leading to serious escalation, if your opponent fails to comply. In the context of the Cold War, which inspired the use of this strategy, this risk existed due to the fact that in an intense military conflict, escalation could occur due to various miscommunication issues, even if neither country wants it to happen.

Overall, we can summarize this section by saying that by making your threat appear more credible, your use of the brinkmanship strategy will be more effective. Furthermore, the best way to make a threat appear credible is to make it in a way that places the decision to escalate the situation outside of control, while also guaranteeing that escalation will possibly occur, but not necessarily.

 

Taking advantage of misperception

When implementing the brinkmanship strategy, misperception can be beneficial, by helping you improve your position against your opponent. There are two main ways to do this:

  • You can appear to be more resolute in order to discourage your opponent, by pretending that you are more willing to escalate the situation than you really are. For example, in the context of switching a network provider, when you make your threat you could provide them with details regarding the deals which are offered by other network providers in the area. This shows that you’ve done research on the topic, and are consequently more likely to be willing to leave them if they fail to offer you a better deal.
  • You can also increase the perceived probability of escalation due to external factors. For example, in a business negotiation, you can say that the final call is in the hands of your boss, and claim that they are unwilling to compromise on the topic. This makes your threat appear more costly by increasing the likelihood that it will end in escalation, which in turn makes it appear more credible toy our opponent.

 

Preventing escalation

When using brinkmanship, there is an inherent risk of the situation escalating into active conflict. Since in most cases such conflict will be against your interest, you should generally try to prevent it.

You can do this by taking into consideration a few important factors that could help you determine the risk level of the engagement. This could help you decide whether or not to use brinkmanship as a strategy in the first place, and it can also help you decide how to proceed if you’ve already started using brinkmanship as a strategy.

First, remember that the more players in the game are resolute, and the more resolute each player is, the less stable the engagement is, and the more likely it is to end in active conflict. Therefore, avoid situations where the other side is unwilling to compromise, or consider a way to weaken their resolve before engaging in brinkmanship.

At the same time, remember that brinkmanship is not just about resolve, but also about the cost and benefit equation for each player involved in the conflict. As such, even though resolve makes a person less likely to back down, they may still do so if the cost/benefit analysis indicates that that is the best course of action.

Based on this, there are two more things that you can do in order to prevent escalation and use brinkmanship effectively:

  • You can decrease, for your opponent, the cost involved in back down. The easier it is for your opponent to back down, the more likely they are to be willing to do so in order to avoid escalation. This is crucial, since in a lot of situations people don’t want to back down, even though strategically it can be the best choice for them, due to factors such as pride, ego, and not wanting to appear weak. If you can make it easy for them to back down in a way that doesn’t embarrass them, you significantly increase the likelihood that they will do so.
  • You can decrease, for your opponent, the benefits involved in staying resolute. The less your opponent benefits from staying resolute, the more likely they are to be willing to back down. By taking away benefits that they gain from staying resolute, you make it more likely that they will choose to comply with your request.

These tactics can be especially helpful when you try to prevent inadvertent escalation of conflict in situations where both sides want to maintain peace. However, they can also help you in general, by making it more likely that your use of the brinkmanship strategy will get you your desired outcome.

 

Other important considerations when using brinkmanship

There are a few more important things to keep in mind when you use the brinkmanship strategy yourself, or when you encounter others who use it:

  • Intuitively, we often believe that increasing a potential challenger’s stake in the status quo would reduce the likelihood of them disputing the status quo by using brinkmanship, because they would want to avoid risking their valuable stake. However, this isn’t always the case, since a large stake in the status quo can be used by a challenger as a bargaining tool, in order convey a strong sense of resolve against their opponent. The result of this is that a potential challenger is not always less likely to challenge the status quo if they have a stake in it, while the challenged player is often more likely to submit in such cases.
  • The manner in which you act when using brinkmanship can reflect on you in the long term. In most cases, conflicts are not truly isolated from one another, and your reputation builds over time. As such, if you show that you are truly willing to follow through on your threats, this will contribute to your reputation in consequent conflicts, meaning that willingness to accept risk in the short term could lead to various benefits in the long term. Conversely, if you end up backing down after making a threat, your future threats will appear less credible should you attempt to use the brinkmanship strategy again.
  • Most importantly, remember that if you commit to using brinkmanship as a strategy, there is always the risk that the situation will escalate into a full-blown conflict. As such, don’t use this strategy unless you’re willing to accept the risk of that happening.

 

Summary and conclusions

  • Brinkmanship is the strategy of pushing dangerous engagements to the brink of active conflict, with the goal of achieving a positive outcome for yourself by intimidating your opponent.
  • Brinkmanship is most commonly associated with the Cold War and the threat of a global nuclear conflict between superpowers, but it also applicable in more personal contexts, such as when threatening to leave a network provider in an attempt to get a better deal.
  • In order to use brinkmanship effectively, you must first ensure that your threat is perceived as credible. You can do this by making a threat that is costly in some way, and by ensuring that the threat involves a potential escalation of the situation, that is outside your control.
  • To avoid situations where your threats end in active conflict, consider the fact that the more resolute the players are, the more likely the situation is to escalate, and the same is true when the cost of backing down is perceived as greater than the cost of staying resolute. You can reduce the risk of escalation by weakening your opponent’s resolve, reducing their perceived cost of backing down, or reducing the benefits that they gain from staying resolute.
  • It’s important to remember that the way you behave while engaging in brinkmanship will reflect on you in the long term, and can affect the outcome of future conflicts. In addition, remember that when engaging in brinkmanship there is always the risk of the situation escalating; avoid using this strategy if that is not something that you are comfortable with.

 

An in-depth discussion of this strategy and others appears in “The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist’s Guide to Success in Business and Life”. It’s a good read for someone looking to understand basic game theory and how it applies to real-life situations.

 


A Little Green Goes a Long Way: How Plants Can Make You Happier, Healthier, and More Productive

How Plants Can Make You Happier and More Productive

 

Studies show that keeping plants in your workspace or even within view of your workspace can improve your physical health, contribute to your emotional well-being, and boost your productivity. In the following article, you will learn more about these benefits and about which plants work best, so that you can take advantage of this effect in the best way possible.

 

The benefits of plants

Research shows that being near plants or having them within views leads to various physical and mental benefits:

  • Living in an area with green spaces improved both your physical as well as mental health. This includes, for example, a reduced likelihood of suffering from depression or anxiety.
  • Working in an office that has plants leads people to feel more productive, and makes it easier for them to concentrate on their work.
  • Keeping a plant within view of your workspace improves performance when working on projects that require creativity.
  • Being able to see green vegetation, either from the window near your desk or as you walk through the building where you work, significantly improves your emotional wellbeing.
  • The presence of plants in a room can help people cope with pain. This can be important, for example, for patients recovering from surgery, who tend to heal better when they recover in a room with plants. This improvement is evident through factors such a shorter hospitalization period, fewer incidents of reported pain, a reduced use of pain-relieving medication, less fatigue, and more positive feelings overall. Furthermore, a similar improvement occurs when patients stay in a room with a view to a natural setting.
  • Plants can help reduce indoor air pollution, by reducing the concentration of volatile organic compounds, which are recognized as one of the causes of building-related illness (which is also known as the sick-building syndrome). The exact number of plants required for this depends on various factors, but in general, placing even a few small potted plants in a room can make a notable difference in air quality.

Because of these benefits, there is a general push for the use of biophilic design in modern architecture. Such design involves incorporating natural elements, and most notably plants, into human living spaces, particularly in urban settings that usually contain few such elements.

 

Why seeing plants is good for you

There are various psychological theories as to why seeing plants is beneficial to your physical and mental health, and researchers are still not certain why exactly exposure to plants has this effect. Two dominant theories on the topic, which we will briefly discuss below, are the psycho-evolutionary stress recovery theory and the attention restoration theory.

 

The psycho-evolutionary stress recovery theory

The psycho-evolutionary theory suggests that “ancestral experiences within natural environments have resulted in better physiological and perhaps psychological adaption to natural vs. built or ‘artificial’ urban environments”. Essentially, this means that because humans evolved primarily in natural settings over the course of history, they feel more comfortable in such an environment.

Under this theory, a natural environment increases the positive emotions that people experience, which limits the physiological stress that they feel. This is advantageous from an evolutionary perspective, since an increase in positive feelings is associated with various physical, emotional, and social benefits.

 

The attention-restoration theory

On the other hand, the attention restoration theory suggests that the modern urban environment requires us to constantly pay attention to our surrounding, while picking up on salient details and filtering out unimportant distractors. Doing this nonstop extracts a cognitive toll, and causes us to experience mental fatigue.

Under this theory, natural environments are considered to be ‘restorative’, because they allow for a relatively automatic engagement of our attention, which is less mentally taxing than an urban environment. As such, exposure to natural elements facilitates rest, and gives our cognitive system a chance to recover from its daily work.

 

Which theory is right

Currently, there is no consensus regarding which theory provides the best explanation for the positive impact of plants. Furthermore, it’s entirely possible that neither theory is the right one, or that the true answer involves some combination of the two, especially since the two theories are relatively similar overall, as they both assume that we are better adapted to living in a natural environment, as opposed to an urban one.

The important thing to remember is that regardless of the reason why it happens, exposure to plants and to natural environment has a powerful, positive effect on people, in terms of improving various aspects of their health, wellbeing, and productivity. In the next section, we will learn how you can take advantage of this effect in the best way possible.

 

How to benefit from having plants in your workspace

Which plants work best

Research shows two important things with regards to which plants you should choose:

As such, when getting plants for your workspace, your best bet it to get a number of small, green, slightly scented plants, some of which have flowers. They should ideally be placed near you, and in a location where you can easily see them.

Keep in mind that these guidelines represent the general recommendations for getting plants. However, if you have any specific preferences for plants that you would like to keep around, you will likely benefit from having them, even if they don’t conform to these guidelines exactly.

Furthermore, if you’re getting plants for someone else, try to get their input on the topic first. This will help you pick the best plants for them, and studies show that when people have input into the choice of which plants they see, they tend to benefit more from having these plants.

 

Other important considerations

Before deciding which plants to get, it’s important to keep in mind the maintenance required when it comes to keeping them in the long-term. This means that there is no point to getting a lot of high-maintenance plants if you won’t be able to take care of them in reality.

As such, if it comes to choosing between a lot of plants that will end up dying after a short while, or a single plant that you will actually take care of, go with the single plant, since in the long run it will produce better benefits than nothing at all.

 

Useful alternatives if you can’t get a real plant

If for some reason you can’t keep real plants in your workspace, there is still a chance you could benefit from some of the effects of plants.

Specifically, an alternative option is to get a few fake plants, or a few pictures of nature. While these won’t have the same benefits as a real plant, research suggests that they could still be beneficial in some ways, so if it comes to choosing between these alternatives or nothing at all, go with them.

In addition, keep in mind that a view to green spaces, such as lawns or trees, is also beneficial, especially if you can’t get any plants indoors. This means that you miss out on some benefits, such as the plants helping clear out indoor air pollution, but will still get to enjoy many of the other benefits of keeping plants within view.

Obviously, setting up such a view after you’ve already settled in is often not a realistic option, but it can definitely be something that you take into consideration when picking out where to live and work.

 

Summary and conclusions

  • Research shows that having plants in your workspace or within view of your workspace offers various benefits to your physical and mental health, as well as to your productivity and creativity.
  • These benefits include, for example, a reduction in indoor air pollution, faster recovery from illnesses, an improved ability to concentrate, improved performance on creative tasks, increased feelings of wellbeing, and a reduction in the likelihood of suffering from depression or anxiety.
  • These benefits have been attributed, among other reasons, to the fact that humans evolved to live in a natural environment, and so such an environment facilitates rest and gives our cognitive system a chance to recharge itself, compared to the urban environments in which most of us live.
  • In general, the greatest benefits of plants come from keeping a number of small, green, lightly scented plants, with a combination of both foliage and flowering plants. However, your personal preferences may vary, and it’s important to take this into account, and get plants that you like.
  • When deciding which plants to get, it’s also important to take their maintenance into account. Avoid getting plants that you won’t be able to take care of in the long term, and if necessary, you can get fake plants or even pictures of nature, which can provide some of the benefits that regular plants do.