Why Playing with Flowers Affects Well-Being


Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening

This is an article by Fran Sorin in Common Ground magazine

Seeing beauty in a flower could awaken humans, however briefly, to the beauty that is an essential part of their own innermost being, their true nature —-Eckhart Tolle

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love flowers. I have memories as a child of my mother bringing lilacs, irises and peonies and arranging them in vases- playing with flowers like an artist at work- until they pleased her eye.  She would then judiciously place them on the dining room and kitchen tables and buffets where several times a day I passed by and inhaled their intoxicating scents and gazed at their alluring beauty.

Without knowing it at the time, these living works of art opened me up to to the world of wabi-sabi–  an aesthetic that perceives beauty as impermanent, imperfect and transient.  Most importantly flowers made me happy.  And not just me.  A seminal 10-month study at Rutgers University of behavioral and emotional responses to receiving flowers showed that flowers are a natural and healthful moderator of moods.

Flowers have an immediate impact on happiness. All study participants expressed “true” or “excited” smiles upon receiving flowers, demonstrating extraordinary delight and gratitude.  The reaction was universal, occurring in all age-groups.

Flowers have a long-term positive effect on moods.  Specifically study participants reported feeling less depressed, anxious and agitated after receiving flowers, and demonstrated a higher sense of enjoyment and life-satisfaction.

Flowers make intimate connections.  The presence of flowers led to increased contact with family and friends. “Common sense tells us that flowers make us happy” said Dr. Haviland-Jones, the lead researcher “Now science shows that not only do flowers make us happier than we know, they have strong positive effects on our emotional well-being”.

Playing with flowers

I have been giving gardening workshops for several years throughout the U.S.  The exercise called Playing With Flowers is probably the most-loved exercise we do.

  1. Take a trip to the nearest street-vendor, farmers market, grocery store or florist that sells locally sustainable fair trade or organic flowers.  Whole Foods has a Whole Trade Guarantee for fair and ethical trades.  Slow Flowers is a new and expanding site that lists American-grown flower sources.
  2. If you’re a gardener and you have flowers blooming in your yard, you’re in luck.  Pick out as many flowers as you want, just let your eye go to what it likes and add them to your bunch.  This is not the time to scrimp.  My philosophy when doing this is more is better.
  3. Ideally you want at least 3 varieties of flowers in a range of colors.  If you want to add more freenery or flowered branches, feel free to do so.
  4. When you get home, remove any excess leaves and trim the bottoms of the stalks on the diagonal. It is easiest to use a pruner which can be obtained from any gardening store.
  5. Place the flowers in a sink filled with cool water with the stems submerged.
  6. Find any type of vase or container that could hold flowers.  Think outside the vase, you can use tea kettles, jars, glasses, cachepots or pitchers.
  7. Put on some music that you like , turn off the phone and let yourself play with different arrangements.  Experiment with a variety of combinations and see what you like and dislike.  Notice how colors, shapes and textures of leaves and flower petals work together,  If you don’t like the way it looks, dismantle and start again.You do not have to be a professional florist here. In fact, striving for any kind of perfection, negates the whole point.  This is about letting yourself go, trusting your eye and noticing all the interesting ways you come up with.
  8. You may find that critical voices in your head are quick to sabotage. This is all the product of the ego, coming up to make sure your spirit stays buried, right where the ego likes it.
  9. Notice how much you question and censor yourself.  Let your kinder, inner voice lead you through and nudge you into letting go and just being in the moment.  Remember you don’t have to do this brilliantly, you don’t even have to do it well.  You just need to do it for the sake of the childlike soul within.
  10. When you are finished playing with the flowers, place the containers in various spots in your home where you will see them often.
  11. Change the water and trim the stems every day to keep them fresh and living longer(and to continue your interaction with them).

This exercise has many benefits, including showing you how to start trusting your instincts, inspiring you to slow down and be in the moment and opening you up to the profound  beauty and power of flowers.

Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening

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