Boost Your Health With the Power of Flowers

I never really understood my dad’s flowers until he died…

Every day for most of the last 35 years of his life, my dad wore a flower in his lapel. Somewhere he found a tiny, silver lapel pin called a “bud vase.” So every few days, he would pluck a flower from his garden, or wherever he could find one, and stick it in his personal vase. A few drops of water kept the flower alive.

At first, I thought it was an odd affectation to pick up when he did – in his 50s. Until then, he had looked and acted like the typical “guy’s guy.” He wore a white T-shirt with a flattop haircut in the ’50s, and a coat and narrow tie as he sipped martinis at lunch in the ’60s…

But by the late ’70s, that attitude didn’t cut it anymore. Dad changed with the times and made the effort to become softer and kinder…

Later in his life, I asked him about this shift. He attributed it to the flowers he started wearing in his lapel at the time. I didn’t really believe him until his memorial, when stories about his lapel flower filled the room. Person after person spoke about how those flowers had cheered them up on many a dark day. People who wouldn’t have normally stopped to chat had struck up conversations when they saw him with his flower. They had treated him like a friendly old man, and he had returned their kindness.

As my dad saw firsthand, the beauty of fresh flowers can influence our moods and even change the behavior of others.

You don’t need a scientific study (though you can find them) to know that women love to receive flowers. Just hand a lady a bouquet and you’re guaranteed a smile. But research has shown that the benefits of beautiful flowers run deeper than just a brief pick-me-up.

One study in Evolutionary Psychology reported on people 55 and older who received one or more bouquets of fresh flowers in a two-week period. These folks not only had better moods but also had better memory recall.

In another study, researchers at Harvard Medical School placed fresh flowers in the kitchens of participants who reported feeling tired and depressed during their morning “slumps.” Seeing the flowers every morning gave them an increase in energy and left them feeling more relaxed and compassionate throughout the day.

And another study from Texas A&M University followed workers in three different office settings. One office had plants and flowers, one had sculptures, and one didn’t have any decorations. Over eight months of observation, workers in the office with flowers came up with more innovative ideas and solved problems more effectively than those in the other offices. Undoubtedly, the sight and smell of fresh flowers lowered workers’ stress levels and boosted their energy levels.

Flowers help your health, too. A landmark study in 1984 demonstrated that surgical patients who had hospital rooms with windows looking out onto trees in a garden had shorter recovery times than patients whose windows looked out onto brick walls. Patients who saw the garden also had fewer negative notes in their files from the nurses and needed fewer painkillers.

Several follow-up studies support the idea of greenery as a boost to wellness. In a 2008 paper published by the American Society for Horticultural Science, hospital patients recovering from surgery responded better when they received fresh flowers. These patients needed less pain medication and had lower blood pressure and anxiety compared with patients who didn’t receive flowers.

Even just the smell of flowers can improve your health. Scents like lavender and rose help calm anxiety and boost your memory.

For example, a Japanese study from 2009 followed Alzheimer’s patients receiving aromatherapy, including the smell of lavender, in the morning and in the evening. After 28 days of therapy, all of the patients scored higher on four different cognitive-assessment tests.

Flowers have rooted themselves in our lives for centuries because of their ability to calm, stimulate, and make us feel better. Do what I do and enjoy flowers through gardening. I love to plant flowers at my house in Augusta, Georgia.

I recommend planting perennials because they come back year after year – no need to keep planting new flowers every year. And fall is a great time to plant when temperatures start to cool. Try flowers like daffodils, lilies, tulips, irises, and amaryllises. Once they get going, they multiply and spread, too. I’ve planted hundreds of bulbs and love the increasing dividends I see from flowers each year.

And when you’re away from home, take some flower scents with you. I always carry rose oil when I travel – a few drops on a tissue set next to the bed helps me relax and fall asleep.

Flowers are a simple and inexpensive way to boost both your happiness and well-being. Watch your mood, creativity, and health improve with just a single flower. Try it today and let us know what your favorite flowers are at [email protected].

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