Flower Power

We Americans spend most of our time indoors, insulated from nature. In fact, author Richard Louv contends that we suffer the effects of “nature deficit disorder.” That’s a real shame because humans are, by nature, natural beings. Being cut off from nature is like being cut off from ourselves. A simple way to bring a little nature into the home is to bring some freshly cut flowers home with you.

This winter, we’ve been keeping fresh, cut flowers in a tall vase on the pass-through between our kitchen and dining room. It’s actually visible from four different rooms, the pantry and from both back and front porches. The fragrance, the color and the very fact they are there seem to be beneficial during the cold, often grey winter weeks. My observation would be simply anecdotal but then I discovered research backs it up.

While shopping for my regular bouquet at my neighborhood florist, a friend noted that my experience was echoed by famous new age doc, Andrew Weil, M.D.

“You know, Dr. Weil wrote somewhere about keeping cut flowers in the house on a regular basis is good for you,” he remarked.

That was enough to set me looking for scientific basis for something we all know by common sense.

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer true. Throughout history, humans have adorned with flowers. Pollen has been found on burial shrouds dating back thousands of years. Flower essences and various plant parts are recognized as medicinal in many cases. However, studies have shown that even the mere presence of fresh, cut flowers in the home is healthful for humans.

Research by Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, revealed that people feel more compassionate toward others, have less worry and anxiety, and feel less depressed when fresh cut flowers are present. Another complex study, headed by Dr. Haviland-Jones of Rutgers, found that cut flowers do a world of wonder for our well-being.

Haviland-Jones’ research is especially intriguing by its innovative methodology. It was a three-part study. The second part was unique in approach. In order to objectively measure mood enhancement, independent observation of response was logged when a person was being handed a single, cut flower versus alternate stimuli in a constrained social situation, i.e., an elevator.

Love in an elevator. We all know that the confines of an elevator, for some reason or another, usually elicit a stiff, formal atmosphere. In the study, researchers entered an elevator containing one person; male or female didn’t matter. One of four different planned social interactions ensued and the participant response was logged. The social interaction of presenting a person with a single, cut Gerber daisy ended up scoring highest on the happiness scale.

There were many responses used to evaluate overall score. One of the most interesting to me was the use of what I learned is called the “Duchenne” smile, named for French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne. It’s what is known as a “genuine” smile, presumably indicating true positive emotion. Participants receiving the daisy were more likely to truly respond with a happy face.

Eye contact, conversation initiation and proximity behavior were also observed and scored. The summary result was that giving someone a flower, even in the usually stoic setting of a university library elevator, brings happiness.

Happy here or to go? So, with science and common sense on our side, how about getting those flowers home? Haviland-Jones’ research continued to demonstrate that flowers also have a long-term positive effect on mood. Study number one provided a mixed bouquet to participants. Using another round of evaluative techniques, researchers found that the enhanced and elevated mood lasted. Checked days later, the presence of flowers continued to elicit positive response in the participants.

Just being happy is a good thing, of course. Remember that mood affects health. When we are in a positive, happy mood, we are less likely to suffer any number of ailments. Happiness is the absence of stress and stress is implicated in nearly all disease.

Positive emotions make physiological change in the body, enhancing our immune response. It’s as simple as positive emotions reap positive response, negative results in negative.

Flowers with legs. If I take care of them, the flowers I pick from my neighborhood florist will stay fresh, fragrant and vibrant for two weeks or more. Some blooms last longer than others. My approach is to ask which ones just arrived and for help selecting some greens to go with them. I end up heading home with splashes of color and freshness that lift the spirit of the whole house for less than $20.

I trim the bottoms of the stems when I get home, then every couple days when I change the water. There’s an easy care guide and some cut-flower food that comes along with them. By following that regime, we create a lasting holistic connection with health and nature.

Whether your household is large or small, house or apartment, there is benefit in the bloom. Try it.

Be well.

Heartland Healing is a New Age polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. It is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Visit HeartlandHealing.com for more information.

posted at 10:48 am
on Friday, March 01st, 2013

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