Less Anxiety and Depression, more Compassion, Creativity and Business Success. Flowers’ Impact on Emotional Health and Productivity
Oscar-Claude Monet (November 14, 1840 – December 5, 1926), philosopher and a founder of French Impressionist painting, once said, “I must have flowers, always, and always.”
Flowers have been cultivated by society members of different cultures as symbols of kindness, love, beauty, spirituality and even power. In the ancient times, the symbolism of flowers was more connected to the spiritual world, rather than social behavior. Only as thousands of years gone by, in Europe, during the late 1800s, the idea of flowers interpreting feelings and beliefs grew into a system of social communicating through flower arrangements.
In old times, red blossoms, for example, were often associated with passion, power, blood and family. White ones usually symbolized both – birth (purity, innocence) and death (the after life). However, different cultures had different beliefs. In Greek mythology, the death flower is considered to be the red anemone, sometimes called the windflower. Symbolism is linked to the death of Adonis, but later adopted by Christians as the anemone’s red is representing the blood shed by Jesus Christ on the cross. Today, the mystical perception of flowers is forgotten, and particularly white and red blossoms are used to celebrate love.
Modern day studies conclude that the positive impact of flowers can be very influential not only when expressing love and admiration, but also while creating positive and creative environment and helping to stay emotionally healthy.
According to behavioral research conducted in 2005 at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, nature provides flowers as a simple way to improve emotional health. The presence of flowers triggers joy, happiness, creativity and other positive emotions and heightens feelings of life satisfaction. “Common sense tells us that flowers make us happy,” said Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Rutgers and lead researcher on the study. “Now, science shows that not only do flowers make us happier than we know, they have strong positive effects on our emotional well-being.”
Study explored the connection between flowers and happiness. Researchers found that flowers are natural moderator of emotions and they have an immediate impact on overall satisfaction of life. Study participants reported feeling less depressed and anxious after having more interactions with flowers. Research also found that flowers increases the depth of intimate connections.
In a follow-up study, J. Haviland-Jones’ team analyzed flowers’ impact on brain awareness. To make their discovery, researchers handed out flowers and pens to elevator riders. People who got flowers became more relaxed, moved closer to the middle of the elevator, smiled, and even initiated conversation. Same effect was not seen when people were given pens.
After new findings, the researchers chose to study older adults, who risk becoming less sociable and more detached and depressed over time. They discovered, the more flowers the older adults received, the happier they were. Participants who got flowers also performed much better in memory tests. Study raised the question of whether the flowers simply cause a change in mood, which affects motivation, or the flowers cause an actual change in memory function.
Another behavioral research study conducted in 2006 by Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, revealed that people feel more compassionate toward others when fresh-cut flowers are present in their home. The participants of study lived with fresh flowers a few days and immediately reported increased level kindness for others, as well as overall less negativity toward others.
After the study, about its results, Nancy Etcoff said:
“As a psychologist, I’m particularly intrigued to find that people who live with flowers report fewer episodes of anxiety and depressed feelings. Our results suggest that flowers have a positive impact on our well-being. <…> 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.”
M. J. Ryan, award-winning author of the Random Acts of Kindness book series, also agrees that flowers make people compassionate.
“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.”
“I can think of no other item besides flowers that evokes such positive feelings and perceptions for both the giver and the recipient.”
Study by Dutch researchers explored flowers’ influence in workplaces. Research concluded, people are more cheerful and less arrogant and shy, when they are in the room with flowers. However, in business environments, it is important that the assortment of flowers be chosen carefully. And marketing approach, using flowers’ influence, should be based on characterization of various consumer types.
Even more relevant for business – scientific research, conducted at Texas A&M University, found that plants hold the secret to business success. Study deduced that employers’ productivity, creative performance and problem solving ability improve remarkably in workplace environments with flowers and plants. During the research, participants (women and men) in the office environment that included flowers and plants demonstrated increased level of innovative thinking and original solutions to problems.
The lead researcher on the project Dr. Roger Ulrich stated:
“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. 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.”
Study (2014) by Mizuho Information & Research Institute, Inc., Tokyo, was also based on connection between workers and flowers. In the research, participants were exposed to roses in the office. Study discovered that parasympathetic nervous activity can be enhanced by viewing roses. New finding suggested, watching roses decreases stress, boosts creative thinking, and improves emotional health of office workers.
Flowers make a significant positive impact on our mental health, science suggests. And either someone is a believer in science or not, flowers still represent harmonized beauty, which make us feel happy and inspired.