Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wellness Wednesday: Stop and Smell the Flowers

I recently read an editorial in our local newspaper where a woman was thanking a stranger for giving her flowers. She had seen him (a stranger to her) holding a bouquet of sunflowers and commented on their beauty and teasingly asked if they were for her. As she was cashing out, the gentleman approached her and handed her the bouquet and wished her a good day. This story also reminded me of an episode of The Big Give when one of the contestants used some of the money she had to buy all the flowers a street vendor had and then she proceeded to just hand them out to random people. Both stories left me with a happy feeling, yet when it comes to others buying me flowers, I have mixed feelings. I hate that they die so quickly, but they are so uplifting to look at. So what is it about flowers, that make us feel so good.

The State University of New Jersey recently published a study (led by Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Rutgers) that found connections between flowers and our satisfaction with life. Flowers help trigger happy thoughts and emotions, they increase of feelings of satisfaction and affect our social behavior in positive ways. I imagine that many of those people who received flowers from a stranger went on to do something nice for someone else later that day or the next. It becomes a pay-it-forward type thing. Here are some of the points learned by the study:

-Flowers provide immediate happiness. People receiving the flowers had "true" smiles on their faces and felt genuinely happy and grateful.

-Flowers help extend feelings of satisfaction and happiness. The recipients of flowers felt less agitated and lonely.

-Flowers allow us to make intimate connections. When someone has given us or sent us flowers, it tells us they were thinking about us.

-Flowers are a healthy and natural way to help us manage our day-to-day moods.

I know I have always enjoyed the flowers I have received, even when I know money was spent to buy them. When we recently bought our home, I was thrilled to have a garden. As I think back to the first few weeks in the house, I always felt best after taking a walk through the garden. The next time you are feeling down, or just because you want to, I encourage you to take a walk through a garden or even the floral department of your local store. Take in the scents and visual beauty and let them linger in your mind. Send flowers to someone you love and let them know you are thinking of them or just give some to a stranger. Cut some from your garden and leave them on a neighbor's doorstep. Just remember to take the time to enjoy the flowers around you. It has now been proven to be good for you.

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