The other day my daughter's friends came over to visit her post-surgery and they did what many people do, they brought flowers.
She was happy to see her friends and delighted to receive the gift.
As I was arranging them into a vase I got to wondering, is there a science as to why flowers make us happy?
According to the website About Flowers, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, conducted a study to determine the true power of flowers.
According to behavioural research conduct at Rutgers, flowers provide us with a simple way to improve emotional health. They compare it's positive emotional benefits to that received during exercise.
"The presence of flowers triggers happy emotions, heightens feelings of life satisfaction and affects social behaviour in a positive manner far beyond what is normally believed."
The study took place over a ten month period by monitoring behavioural and emotional responses in participants after receiving flowers.
They found that:
- Flowers have an immediate impact on happiness
- Flowers have a long-term positive affect on moods
- Flowers make intimate connections.
It's a no brainer that flowers make us happy when we receive them. They make us feel loved, appreciated and thought about. But what was interesting to me was that participants reported feeling longer term effects which included feeling "less depressed, anxious or agitated after receiving flowers and demonstrated a higher sense of enjoyment and life satisfaction."
The study also found that people were more likely to increase their contact with family and friends once flowers were received. I guess that goes back to the fact that flowers make us feel loved, appreciated and thought about.
This is all very interesting.
But it's not quite what I was looking for.
I guess I was wondering less about the behavioural science of receiving flowers from someone else (this all sounds pretty logical to me) and more about whether there was any science based on the scents and colours of flowers that might trigger increased serotonin. You know, whether it was worth us buying our own flowers in lieu of the gifted kind.
Alas I haven't found that type of research yet (although I'm still looking). There are some flowers that have mood perk properties based on smell (eg jasmine), but they are specific to the individual flower rather than about the concept of "giving flowers" as a whole.
In the meantime there is a gazillion websites all quoting the Rutgers behavioural study. The floral industry is rejoicing and I can understand why.
It turns out there IS a science as to why flowers make us happy. It's all in the receiving ...
I know that receiving flowers makes me happy.
Do they make you happy too?
When was the last time you gave someone flowers?
The Emotional Impact of Flowers Study was published in the April 2005 issue of Evolutionary Psychology. Click here for the academic paper.