It turns out that the 1960s activists who chanted "flower power" were onto something important, in more ways than they probably knew. Flowers, just like peace, are good for our mental health.
Research consistently links indoor flowers (and plants, but they haven't been mentioned in many protest slogans) with wellbeing. Park and Mattson in 2008 confirmed what visitors to sick people have known intuitively forever. They found that patients in hospital rooms brightened with flowers and potted plants needed less postoperative pain medication, had lower systolic blood pressure and pulse rates, were less anxious and tired, and generally were in a more positive psychological state than patients in rooms without plants. Your living room isn't a hospital room (at least in the best of times), but if flowers and plants do so many good things for hospital patients, they must make your day at least a little better. Flowers in dining rooms are also a good idea -- researchers from Wageningen University in the Netherlands studied restaurant diners and found that people with fresh flowers on their tables seem to be in better moods.
Raanaas, Evensen, Rich, Sjostrom, and Patil determined that cognitive performance is better in offices with plants than in workplaces without them. So adding plants to your home office is probably worth the effort required to keep them alive -- they earn their fertilizer. In case you're still not convinced: Shibata and Suzuki collected evidence linking seeing green leafy plants with being more creative. Planning to brainstorm? Don't forget your ficus. And plants, given half a chance, freshen the air while they're revving up our brains.
Smelling floral scents also seems to put us in a good mood and make us feel less anxious. Flowers clearly aren't going to eliminate the need for medication, but they may take the edge off during exams or before a major presentation -- and smelling daisies doesn't leave you with a hangover.
When you're picking a bunch of flowers in your yard or at the local farmers' market, remember that less saturated and brighter colors are generally more relaxing, while bold saturated colors will energize you. A bunch with colors that fall near each other on the color wheel will also be more calming; with the opposite effect ensuing if the colors are opposite each other. Curvy shapes have generally been shown to be relaxing -- make an informed choice.
Reading the messages sent by flowers is a well-practiced art. Think about what roses of different colors seem to "say." Ever been disappointed when a potential partner you fancy shows up at your door with yellow roses instead of red ones? In the Internet era, symbolic snafus are harder to explain away. When in doubt, Google.
Enhancing the interior of your house with flowers and plants isn't an excuse to throw environmental responsibility to the wind. Local will probably last longer, anyway.
Flowers and plants in your home have positive psychological payback. Think of them as part of your mental health treatment program.
For plants that help de-stress your space, click through our slideshow below.
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