Far more than just a zen-chic desk accessory, bonsai trees are a stress-relieving art form with the potential to boost mental health by encouraging concentration and creativity. And, as a type of gardening replete with opportunities for mindfulness, tending to bonsai may be effective at helping with depression and anxiety through increased emotional regulation and decreased neural activity in the area of the brain that controls rumination, the phenomenon of getting stuck thinking the same negative thoughts over and over again. A 2017 study by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health even showed that the visual stimulation of merely looking at a bonsai tree is associated with an increase in positive emotions and parasympathetic nervous activity resulting in a calm, relaxed feeling.
Brush up on your bonsai knowledge with these fun facts:
- You don’t need a specific species to grow a bonsai. Any number of different tree types, once cultivated and shaped in a container, can be a bonsai.
- The art form of miniature landscapes was actually born in China as an ancient horticultural practice, but the Japanese, under the influence of Zen Buddhism, redeveloped it as bonsai 700 years ago.
- The Ficus retusa Linn, on display at the Crespi Bonsai Museum in Italy, is believed to be the oldest bonsai at more than 1,000 years old.