The psychology of flowers and why they make us so happy
These days, as our lives go through ups and downs due to the changes we are living through, more self care is called for. We may need more exercise, a healthier diet or more sleep. We might find peace in moments wandering through nature or in meditative quiet time. And we might receive a much needed emotional lift from Flower Power.
In 2005, the Department of Psychology at Rutgers University conducted a 10 month behavioural study, looking for links between flowers and life-satisfaction. They found that “Flowers have immediate and long-term effects on emotional reactions, mood, social behaviors and even memory for both males and females.”
“What’s most exciting about this study is that it challenges established scientific beliefs about how people can manage their day-to-day moods in a healthy and natural way,” said Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and lead researcher on the study.
In the study, subjects received deliveries of flowers and other gifts such as fruit, candles and pens. While most deliveries of gifts received a positive response, the highest response rates came from receiving flowers. The studies showed that these positive responses lasted two to three days.
But honestly, we didn’t need a scientific study to tell us what our bodies intuitively know (though confirmation is sometimes nice). According to the Rutger’s study, the presence of flowers:
Why do Flowers Make Us Happy?
Flowers are connected to the release of some seriously happy-forming hormones in our systems.
Dopamine, the feel-good neurochemical, helps regulate movement, learning, motivation, attention and emotional responses. It is released by the expectation of a reward. Flowers, back in the day, were a huge reward signal in our brains because they promised abundance after a hungry winter. While we may not link flowers so directly with food anymore, flowers can still trigger that sense of anticipated excitement.
Oxytocin is a neuro-chemical often called the “love hormone”. It creates feelings of social trust from mother-infant bonding, to romantic connection to group cohesion and belonging. These bonds are crucial not only to our survival as a species but also to our capacity to thrive and grow. When we give each other flowers, oxytocin is released. Flowers then serve as talismans, communicating the strength of our bonds, and our intention to invest in caring for the relationships that form them. Because of the evolutionary connection of flowers to physical survival, we are also underlining the importance of social connection to our well-being.
And then there’s serotonin, the neuro-chemical crucial to mood, well-being, happiness and our spiritual lives. Scientists have found that serotonin receptor activity in the brain correlates with a capacity for transcendence or bliss. From the lotus to the rose, lowers have long been associated with spiritual paths since ancient times. It is both the colour of the flowers AND their scent that trigger serotonin and lift the Spirit.
That brings us to the Chromotherapy and Aromatherapy. That’s part 2 of this blog post. Stay tuned. But in the meantime, here's a lovely bouquet to help your happy.