How Flowers Improve Our Mental Health

I didn’t know it at the time, but there were some key moments I can remember where I started to learn resilience, the power of taking responsibility, seeing challenges as temporary, and appreciating the beauty in every single day to power yourself through difficult external circumstances. Flowers played a huge role during that time, and my first flower arranging book was actually inspired and created from those years. 

Because I believe in the healing power of flowers based on my own experiences, I am always excited to read studies about how flowers can positively contribute to our mental health. Here’s one study I poured over recently that made me smile. The summary below:

An Environmental Approach to Positive Emotion: Flowers

by Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Holly Hale Rosario, Patricia Wilson, Terry R. McGuire

For more than 5000 years, people have cultivated flowers although there is no known reward for this costly behavior. In three different studies we show that flowers are a powerful positive emotion “inducer”. In Study 1, flowers, upon presentation to women, always elicited the Duchenne or true smile. Women who received flowers reported more positive moods 3 days later. In Study 2, a flower given to men or women in an elevator elicited more positive social behavior than other stimuli. In Study 3, flowers presented to elderly participants (55+ age) elicited positive mood reports and improved episodic memory. Flowers have immediate and long-term effects on emotional reactions, mood, social behaviors and even memory for both males and females. There is little existing theory in any discipline that explains these findings. We suggest that cultivated flowers are rewarding because they have evolved to rapidly induce positive emotion in humans, just as other plants have evolved to induce varying behavioral responses in a wide variety of species leading to the dispersal or propagation of the plants.

Honestly, after working as a florist, this study is no surprise to me! If you carry flowers through the street, people turn and smile and strike up conversation. I’ve had dozens of conversations or exchanged smiles with sweet grandmothers here in Portugal who share a love for flowers, despite the language difficulty on my end. My moods are always better when I have fresh flowers woven into my space.

The authors of the study also suggest that flowers play a role in evolution! This intrigued me:

Here’s how flowers help support the so-called Big Bloom theory of evolution: Flowers cause positive emotions, and research shows that from an evolutionary standpoint, positive emotions make people better survivors. That’s because positive people are more likely to maintain social relationships, reproduce, find needed resources and be creative. Many flowers and plants rely on humans to fertilize them, nurture their growth and remove the weeds that would choke them to death. In return, they give us pleasure.

“The way they repay us is that they have developed little chemical factories that decrease anxiety and improve our mood,” Haviland-Jones said.

Source

Here is another fun breakdown from Psychology Today about how flowers offer dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin! The author even mentions how discovering wildflowers can trigger all of these chemicals! Read more here.

I already know most of this by experience, but it is great to have it acknowledged! 2020 and 2021 have been an incredible opportunity to share this idea of flowers for healing! I’ve taught lots of classes to corporate teams this year and a half for exactly this purpose. I always hear how much they love opening their boxes of organic flowers before the class, touching fuzzy leaves like lamb’s ears, interacting with fragrant stems of lavender, and learning to collaborate with ingredients to create arrangements that lift their moods and offer a dose of nature to their homes and workplaces! 


Arranging Flowers in the Garden

This week’s video is a peak at some of the projects and happenings in my corner of the world when it comes to flowers and gardens. Planting a balcony garden has been a very heartening part of 2020 and 2021. Last year I went all out with a victory garden mentality, planting veggies, diving deep into tomatoes mainly, sowing all sorts of herbs and microgreens. 

This year, I was a bit less ambitious and also late in the planting game! I decided to experiment with cover crops on some of my containers, in order to regenerate the soil. It is still an experiment underway. Inspired by a friend, and all my hours spent watching Gardener’s World, I decided to focus on flowers this year. I’ve even let most of my radishes go to flower and am simply in love with their pale pink blossoms. My sweet peas struggled at first but they finally took off and just this week I’ve spotted some buds! Cosmos, a second blooming of crown daisy, and some last minute cuttings of pennyroyal are just about to burst! I love to see how nature collaborates, even when we bend and break the rules!

On the flower front, I’ve started to feel challenged by the circumstances in Portugal, as I can’t get to my flower market, due to my personal decision to stay locked down until I am fully vaccinated. So, I’ve been ordering in from some lovely organic farms. These farms focus on food, flowers are not their main crops, so the quality can vary but the blooms and stems are still lovely. I´ve been incorporating herbs as well, scented lavender greenery in a lovely grey green along with purple basil, and flowering thyme. Whenever I smell thyme, I am reminded of the gardens I grew as a teenager and the evenings spent making tussie mussies with bunches and bunches of thyme!

This week also brought some lovely mail! Two sweet features about Field, Flower, Vase, which I will share more about in another post!

How is your summer? What are you arranging right now?

P.S. If you are interested in learning more about sourcing flowers as a stylist or designer, join the free workshop that walks you through all the details as well as my secret sources so you can source fresh floral ingredients like a pro. Book your spot here.


How to Build a Flower Arrangement

I notice a lot of students are a bit lost during their first foray into flower arranging, so I have created a sort of blueprint, addressing common mistakes I see. Now, let’s not get too serious! There are not a lot of rules in flower arranging, but for those looking for a starting point, and a map to create their arrangements from, I created this video sharing my method for building visually successful flower arrangements! I hope you find it helpful!

Resources mentioned:

Source Beautiful Flowers, a free workshop: Sign up here!

Your floristry checklist: Get it here!

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