Nature provides us with a simple way to improve emotional health – flowers.
The presence of flowers triggers happy emotions, heightens feelings of life satisfaction and affects social behavior in a positive manner far beyond what is normally believed.
“What’s most exciting about these studies is that they challenge established scientific beliefs about how people can manage their day-to-day moods in a healthy and natural way,” said Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Rutgers and lead researchers on one of the studies.
Living with Flowers Strengthens Feelings of Compassion
A behavioral research study conducted by Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, reveals that people feel more compassionate toward others, have less worry and anxiety, and feel less depressed when fresh cut flowers are present in the home.
“Other research has proven that flowers make people happy when they receive them,” Etcoff says. “What we didn’t know is that spending a few days with flowers in the home can affect a wide variety of feelings.”
- Flowers feed compassion.
Study participants who lived with fresh cut flowers for less than a week felt an increase in feelings of compassion and kindness for others.
- Flowers chase away anxieties, worries and the blues at home.
Overall, people in the study simply felt less negative after being around flowers at home for just a few days.
Participants most frequently placed flowers in their kitchens, dining rooms and living rooms, where they spend a lot of time at home. They reported wanting to see the blooms first thing in the morning.
- Living with flowers can provide a boost of energy, happiness and enthusiasm at work.
Having flowers at home can have a positive carry-over impact on our mood at work, too. The study found that people were more likely to feel happier and have more enthusiasm and energy at work when flowers were in their home living environments.
Flowers Improve Emotional Health
A team of researchers explored the link between flowers and life satisfaction in a 10-month study of participants’ behavioral and emotional responses to receiving flowers. The results show that flowers are a natural and healthful moderator of moods.
1. Flowers have an immediate impact on happiness. All study participants expressed “true” or “excited” smiles upon receiving flowers, demonstrating extraordinary delight and gratitude. This reaction was universal, occurring in all age groups.
2. Flowers have a long-term positive effect on moods. Specifically, study participants reported feeling less depressed, anxious and agitated after receiving flowers, and demonstrated a higher sense of enjoyment and life satisfaction.
3. Flowers make intimate connections. The presence of flowers led to increased contact with family and friends.
“Common sense tells us that flowers make us happy,” said Dr. Haviland-Jones. “Now, science shows that not only do flowers make us happier than we know, they have strong positive effects on our emotional well being.”
Flowers Improve Morning Mood
Participants of a behavioral study conducted by researchers at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital confirmed that they feel least positive in the early hours but reported being happier and more energetic after looking at flowers first thing in the morning.
“The morning blahs, it turns out, is a real phenomenon, with positive moods – happiness, friendliness and warmth, for example – manifesting much later in the day,” says lead researcher Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D. “Interestingly, when we placed a small bouquet of flowers into their morning routines, people perked up.”
Dr. Etcoff is referencing the fact that participants in the study responded to the flowers, which had been placed in rooms they frequented in the morning. Overall, the participants reported they liked to look at the blooms first thing in the morning, particularly in the kitchen. The final study results demonstrate that flowers impact people emotionally at home, causing them to feel less anxious and more compassionate. They even reported a boost of energy that lasted through their day.
“What I find interesting is that by starting the day in a more positive mood, you are likely to transfer those happier feelings to others – it’s what is called mood contagion,” says Etcoff. “And, the kitchen is the place where families tend to gather in the morning – imagine how big a difference a better morning mood can make.”
Flowers Boost Seniors' Well-being
Recently, researchers at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, released the results of a six-month behavioral study on the health effects of flowers on senior citizens. The study demonstrates that flowers ease depression, inspire social networking and refresh memory as we age.
"The results are significant because as our nation grows older and life becomes more stressful, we look for easy and natural ways to enhance our lives - and the lives of our aging parents," said Dr. Jeannette Haviland-Jones, professor of psychology and director of the Human Development Lab at Rutgers. "Now, one simple answer is right under our noses."
This research follows a study conducted in 2000, which links flowers to greater happiness and life satisfaction in women. In 2001, Rutgers set out to explore the effects flowers would have on senior citizens, who experience different living situations and greater life changes.
Flowers Promote Innovation in the Workplace
In an eight-month study, the Texas A&M University research team explored the link between flowers and plants and workplace productivity. Participants performed creative problem solving tasks in a variety of common office environments, or conditions. The conditions included a workplace with flowers and plants, a setting with sculpture and an environment with no decorative embellishments.
During the study, both women and men demonstrated more innovative thinking, generating more ideas and original solutions to problems in the office environment that included flowers and plants. In these surroundings, men who participated in the study generated 15% more ideas. And, while males generated a greater abundance of ideas, females generated more creative, flexible solutions to problems when flowers and plants were present.
"Our research shows that a change as simple as adding flowers and plants can be important in the most meaningful way to businesses in the modern economy," said Dr. Roger Ulrich, lead researcher on the project. "People's productivity, in the form of innovation and creative problem solving, improved - which in certain circumstances could mean the difference between mild and great business success."
Flower Givers Perceived as Successful & Caring
Rutgers University researcher Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., director of the university’s Human Emotions Lab, explored what the gifts we choose say about who we are and whether they affect how we are perceived. The research reveals that those who send flowers, in comparison to other gifts, are viewed as successful, caring and emotionally intelligent people. More specific findings include:
- Both men and women who give flowers are perceived as happy, achieving, strong, capable and courageous people;
- Men and women come across as more emotionally intelligent; they give the impression they can effectively express their feelings and take time to understand the feelings of others;
- and Female floral gifters are viewed as more appreciative of beauty and nature.
Discovering the scientific power of flowers is not new to Haviland-Jones. Previous Rutgers University research conducted by her team found that flowers create instant delight and happiness, and increase enjoyment and life satisfaction. Specifically, upon receiving a gift of flowers, the female study participants responded with true smiles and reported positive moods that lasted for days. The presence of flowers also led to increased contact with family and friends.
“Flowers have evolved to activate positive emotional responses from people,” says Haviland-Jones. “Each bloom has the potential to put a smile on our face and sway our opinion of a friend, colleague or loved one. That’s powerful.”
“Gift recipients experience compelling connections with givers, and the positive link is particularly evident in the exchange of flowers,” says M.J. Ryan, award-winning author of the Random Acts of Kindness book series. “In my everyday work with individuals, CEOs and leadership teams at some of the world’s top global companies, I see the powerful implications of gratitude and appreciation.”
According to Ryan, a simple call to the florist can make a big impact beyond conventional gifting occasions. Some of her favorite, unexpected gifting opportunities include surprise recognition for a job well done; an “I miss you” gift for an out-of-town family member; and an advance “thanks for hosting us” gesture before visiting a friend’s house.
“A successful person is not necessarily someone with a lot of money and material goods, but rather someone who is in tune with people and knows how to touch their hearts,” says Ryan. “I can think of no other item besides flowers that evokes such positive feelings and perceptions for both the giver and the recipient."
Check out Amazon's section on Flower Therapy.
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