We all know we can take vitamins to boost our bodies but sometimes it's just as important to boost the mind. Triggering our sensory feelings is just as important to serenity, inspiration and wellness as five portions of fruit and vegetables. Which is where flowers come in. While the health benefits of plants are well known, flowers are now being dubbed the healthy Vitamin F, following research by leading institutions like Harvard and Rutgers University.
In fact according to American personal coach Jayme Barrett, flowers, when used throughout the home, provide a natural energy that can create positive shifts in emotions. As she says "Flowers are a wonderful way to ease the stress of everyday life and refocus our emotions more constructively." Which means that sending someone flowers doesn't just look good but does them good as well.
What Harvard discovered
A behavioural study conducted by researchers at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital confirmed that study participants felt 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."
Nancy and her research team investigated the effects of flowers in the home environment on well being. 54 people, ages 25-60, were studied using a series of self-report measures allowing the research team to know where the person was, with whom and what they were doing when they experienced an emotion, both when flowers were and were not present.
Half of the participants received a control home décor item, other than flowers, to ensure study validity. After living with either flowers or the control intervention for approximately one week, participants rated their feelings during specific periods of the day, recording emotions during each episode.
Choose a feeling, choose a colour
Choosing the right colour flower is just as important as the right design. Because different colours convey different meanings and influences and can say more than words alone. We bring you the low down on what colour means what so you can send an even more personal gift.
Red - For inspiration, love and passion
Hot, stimulating and downright sexy, red can quicken the pulse, excite the senses and rouse appetites! Whether it's sexy Moulin Rouge red or fast paced Ferrari red, it's the most stimulating colour you can get. No wonder it's the colour of lovers the world over!
Orange - To cheer people up
According to Frank Sinatra Orange is the happiest colour while others reckon it has a sense of humour, which could explain a certain phone company's adverts! Orange uplifts and transforms making it the perfect colour if you're feeling blue. And, like red, orange encourages activity, va-va-voom and energises people.
Yellow - Balancing mind, body and spirit
Sunny, bright, inspirational and uplifting and definitely not cheap! Yellow symbolises the sun and works as a marvellous pick-me-up. In fact it's said that yellow stimulates the pineal gland that regulates our body clock.
Green - The natural healer
Healing, nurturing and comforting, green is the perfect colour for get well gifts as research proves patients recuperate faster with a green outlook. The natural colour of health, growth and judgement, green not only harmonises with all other colours but symbolises life and abundance.
Blue - Calming and releasing tension
Apparently blue is the favourite colour around the world and not only relaxes people but aids communication as it is the colour of logic and reflection. One of the 'calm' colours that cools and sooths, blue is often associated with peace, which is why the UN chose for their logo.
Purple - Success, wealth and action
Creative, inspirational and a deeply spiritual colour used extensively in religion. However purple is also opulent, glamorous and indulgent which is why it is associated with royalty and riches and considered a colour of wealth. In Feng Shui violet is the colour of dreamers and visionaries while colour therapists will often prescribe indigo to encourage intuition.
White - Pureness, serenity and peace
The classic sign of peace, think doves and white flags, as well as cleanliness, purity, and spirituality. In Western culture it represents life and marriage but death in Eastern cultures. White is the perfect foil for all other flowers and accentuates their colour and shape. However an all white design is probably one of the most elegant you can choose and the perfect colour choice when calm and serenity are your goals.
About Nancy Etcoff:
Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D., is a faculty member of the Harvard Medical School and the Harvard University Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative and a practicing psychologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry where she is the Director of the Program in Aesthetics and Well Being. At Harvard, she currently teaches a course entitled The Science of Happiness.