Before the pandemic, I used to cut flowers from my garden at the beginning of the work week and bring them to my office. I am no flower arranger; I just put the zinnias, marigolds, daisies, and cosmos in a vase on my desk. My colleagues loved them. Invariably, they would smile and strike up a conversation. Some people would ask me to bring in flowers for them; some were inspired to bring in flowers of their own.
Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Professor Emeritus with Rutgers’ Department of Psychology, has researched the impact flowers have on both men and women. In three different studies, she has proven that flowers are a positive emotional “inducer.” In the first study, flowers, when given to women, elicited the Duchenne smile. The Duchenne smile is a genuine smile, an indicator of happiness. The person is smiling, the corners of the mouth are raised, the cheeks are raised, and the eyes are crinkled with lines. In addition, the women in the study reported more positive moods three days later.
In the second study, a flower or a pen was given to men and women in an elevator to see if flowers have the same impact on men and to see if flowers (versus pens) would decrease the social distance in an elevator and increase conversation initiation. Men showed the same pattern of smiling when receiving flowers. When the people in the elevator were given flowers, they were more likely to initiate conversation, thus closing the gap between them.
In a third study, flowers were given to people in senior living residences. The flowers elicited positive moods and improved episodic memory. Probably this is something that many garden club members have seen firsthand when giving floral arrangements to senior citizens.
Dr. Haviland-Jones’ research proves what we instinctively know: flowers trigger happy emotions and affect social behavior in positive manners. This year, year three of the pandemic, we can help bring a smile to people’s faces by planting flower seeds and giving bouquets. The easiest of course are the direct sow flowers. Purchase a packet of seeds for a few dollars and plant them in your garden. No need to start indoors under lights or fool with milk jugs to winter sow. Easy to grow flowers that can be cut for bouquets are zinnias, cosmos, marigolds, sunflowers, bachelors buttons (Centaurea), Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), calendulas, lace flowers, (Ammi majus), and Dara Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota). All of these, even the short type of sunflowers, can also be grown in containers.
Make genuine smiles this summer, give homegrown bouquets of flowers to friends and family.
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What I like is the data that backs up what we gardeners know...flowers are a positive emotional ignitor..thank you!
When my mother had to move to a memory care unit i brought a bouquet of flowers to her every Sunday. Usually they were from my garden. If I had nothing blooming, I would purchase grocery store flowers. She loved receiving those humble bouquets.