We all know that flowers and plants have the power to make people happy. They can delight you on a special occasion, cheer you up when you’re sad or make a dull, dreary room much more appealing.
But what is it about flowers that puts you in a good mood? And do they really have that much influence over your mental health?
Our smart network of UK doctors have shared a few facts for you to bear in mind next time you’re buying a bunch for your home, or for someone you care about.
While there are many things you can do to manage your mental health, flowers can help restore some short-term calm to your situation.
It turns out that this is true even in very worrying situations. A 2008 study found that hospital patients who had flowers in their room felt less anxious. They were also more positive about their recovery and needed less post-operative care than patients without plants.
Before you turn up at your loved one’s bedside with a huge bouquet, it’s worth noting that many hospitals don’t allow flowers on wards. This is due to issues such as mould, hay fever and lack of space.
However, there’s nothing to stop you filling your home and garden with beautiful blooms to take your mind off things.
Have some in your bedroom to create a calming environment when you go to sleep and when you wake up, or make space for a plant in your study to help you keep a handle on work-related stress.
Sleeping properly is really important. In fact, it’s so important that we’ve already written a whole post about it. So, where do plants come into it?
When it comes to sleep, we’re going to focus on one flower in particular. The smell of lavender is proven to lower your heart rate and blood pressure, which will help you to relax. The more relaxed you are, the more likely you are to drift off into a restful sleep.
Obviously, lavender can’t cure insomnia on its own, but it can certainly help as part of your bedtime routine.
Specifically, rosemary can sharpen your powers of recall.
In 2015, researchers conducted a very interesting experiment, in which participants went into one of three rooms and completed a memory test. One room smelt of rosemary, one of lavender and the other wasn’t given a specific scent.
Each participant had to look at a series of objects hidden around the room and remember them for later. The project tested the impact of different smells on ‘future memory’ - in other words, how much you remember to remember.
In real-life terms, this could be posting a letter you wrote yesterday, or paying your bills on time.
The people in the rosemary-scented room scored highest in this test. The lavender room scored significantly lower, presumably because the people here were far too relaxed and sleepy to keep up with everything!
We all associate colours with different moods. Red can mean love, anger or danger. Yellow is usually associated with happiness and sunshine. Blue can signify calm or sadness.
Green is linked to safety, which could explain why having lots of leafy plants around creates such a comfortable environment.
On top of this, we each have our own personal relationships with colours that can bring to mind a happy or sad memory and influence our reactions.
Suddenly, choosing the colour of your flowers becomes a bigger decision than you thought! Of course, it’s also a great chance to create a particular emotion or feeling in whoever will receive the flowers.
Studies have shown that offices with plants increase brain performance and encourage creativity.
Sparse, clean offices might look impressive to people passing through, but they don’t offer any visual stimulation for those that have to spend all day there, which could have an impact on productivity.
It’s not just workers, either. Studies have also shown the putting plants in classrooms and lecture halls increases attendance. It turns out that having plants around can make you happier and more attentive, wherever you are!
Going back to the idea of colour, red is connected to concentration and attention to detail, while blue is considered a better way to encourage creativity and free-thinking. So, if you notice a lot of plants with the same colour around your office, your boss might be trying to tell you something!
Why wait for someone to present you with flowers, when you could grow your own? We know that flowers can make you feel great and there’s also evidence that gardening itself can be good for your mental health.
A 2015 study found that 88% of people cited mental wellbeing as a reason for heading out into the garden. All that digging, planting and pruning provides fresh air and a sense of achievement.
Some people find value in having something to care for that relies on them to survive. Gardening is also an activity you can do as a group, such as tending a community garden, and spending time with friends and family is a sure-fire way to boost your mood.
When it comes to mental health, everyone is different. What works for one person won’t work for another. We’re here to help you find out what works best for you.