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With today's high-tech and fast-paced lifestyle taking its daily toll on our lives, experts advise exercise and other personal lifestyle changes to relieve stress. According to recent behavioral research conducted at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, nature provides us with a simple way to improve emotional health - flowers. The presence of flowers triggers happy emotions, heightens feelings of life satisfaction and affects social behavior in a positive manner far beyond what is normally believed.
"What's most exciting about this study is that it challenges established scientific beliefs about how people can manage their day-to-day moods in a healthy and natural way," said Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Rutgers and lead researcher on the study.
A team of researchers explored the link between flowers and life satisfaction in a 10-month study of participants' behavioral and emotional responses to receiving flowers. The results show 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. This 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. "Now, science shows that not only do flowers make us happier than we know, they have strong positive effects on our emotional well being."
Forget the fountain of youth, new scientific research proves flowers help senior citizens cope with the challenges of aging.
The study also explored where in their homes people display flowers. The arrangements were placed in areas of the home that are open to visitors - such as foyers, living rooms and dining rooms - suggesting that flowers are a symbol for sharing.
"Flowers bring about positive emotional feelings in those who enter a room," said Dr. Haviland-Jones. "They make the space more welcoming and create a sharing atmosphere."
The Emotional Impact of Flowers Study was conducted by Jeannette M. Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Project Director, Human Development Lab at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Dr. Haviland-Jones is a psychologist and internationally recognized authority in the role of emotional development in human behavior and nonverbal emotional signals and response.
The research adds a scientific foundation to what many consider to be common knowledge - that flowers have a strong, beneficial impact on those who receive them. The Society of American Florists worked in cooperation with the Rutgers research team, bringing an expertise of flowers to the project.
The researchers from Rutgers determined that the flower recipients in the study experienced an elevation in mood that lasted for days. And Chinese healers - who've long believed in "flower power" - say that it doesn't stop there. They say you can utilitze flowers to summon whatever power or emotion you'd like - and that the secret is in the flower's color. Each color creates a different frequency of lightwaves, they believe, which travel through the retina and down the optic nerve, setting off a chain reaction of responses in the body. Neurotransmitters are then released, inducing the production of calming hormones like melotonin, stimulating hormones like adrenaline, and mood-boosting hormones like serotonin.
• Increase energy with red roses
Since red has the slowest vibratory rate and and longest wavelength, it stimulates adrenal glands, boosting energy.
• Boost confidence with irises
The color indigo stimulates the brain's pineal gland, which is the regulator of sleep patterns. Indigo also helps to free the mind of worries, fear and inhibition.
• Enhance alertness with sunflowers
Yellow lightwaves stimulate the brain, making you alert, clearheaded and decisive. And since we associate yellow with the sun's rays and daylight, it's said to help us feel more optimistic.
• Get a good night's sleep with bluebells
Blue triggers the production of melotonin, a brain chemical that helps us relax and sleep soundly. Blue also stimulates the thyroid gland to release thyroxin, a hormone that regulates metabolic rate.
• Relax with green zinnias
Green affects the nervous system, making us breathe slowly and deeply, slowing the production of stress hormones and helping the heart relax.
• Prevent allergies with orange daisies
Orange strengthens the immune system and the lungs, which can ward off spring allergies. Orange also has a strong beneficial effect on the digestive system and can stimulate the sexual organs.
• Relieve stress with lilacs
Violet cools us, alleviating "hot" conditions like heat rash and sunburn, and suppressing hunger and balancing metabolism. It also stimulates the pituitary gland, the part of the brain that releases tension-fighting beta-endorphins.
A recent behavioral study conducted at Rutgers University shows that men who receive flowers demonstrate increased social interaction and happiness. This research expands on previous data collected, which showed that flowers enhance happiness and social connections among women.
Conducted by Rutgers University student researcher Holly Hale and psychology professor Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., the study involved two groups of men who varied in age and ethnicity, one group who received a surprise gift of flowers and a control group who did not. The subjects' verbal cues and body language (measures of social interaction) were studied.
The men who received flowers demonstrated increased eye contact in conversation, stood in closer proximity to the researchers, and produced more and truer smiles than those men who did not receive flowers.
While in general, women displayed a greater level of emotion in their study, the effects are equal. "When it comes to receiving flowers, men and women are on the same playing field," said Haviland-Jones. "It seems that we all express extraordinary delight and increase our social behavior."
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