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The Mental Health Benefits Of Flowers (PHOTOS)

Posted: 04/01/2013 2:34 pm

It turns out that the 1960s activists who chanted "flower power" were onto something important, in more ways than they probably knew. Flowers, just like peace, are good for our mental health.

Research consistently links indoor flowers (and plants, but they haven't been mentioned in many protest slogans) with wellbeing. Park and Mattson in 2008 confirmed what visitors to sick people have known intuitively forever. They found that patients in hospital rooms brightened with flowers and potted plants needed less postoperative pain medication, had lower systolic blood pressure and pulse rates, were less anxious and tired, and generally were in a more positive psychological state than patients in rooms without plants. Your living room isn't a hospital room (at least in the best of times), but if flowers and plants do so many good things for hospital patients, they must make your day at least a little better. Flowers in dining rooms are also a good idea -- researchers from Wageningen University in the Netherlands studied restaurant diners and found that people with fresh flowers on their tables seem to be in better moods.

Raanaas, Evensen, Rich, Sjostrom, and Patil determined that cognitive performance is better in offices with plants than in workplaces without them. So adding plants to your home office is probably worth the effort required to keep them alive -- they earn their fertilizer. In case you're still not convinced: Shibata and Suzuki collected evidence linking seeing green leafy plants with being more creative. Planning to brainstorm? Don't forget your ficus. And plants, given half a chance, freshen the air while they're revving up our brains.

Smelling floral scents also seems to put us in a good mood and make us feel less anxious. Flowers clearly aren't going to eliminate the need for medication, but they may take the edge off during exams or before a major presentation -- and smelling daisies doesn't leave you with a hangover.

When you're picking a bunch of flowers in your yard or at the local farmers' market, remember that less saturated and brighter colors are generally more relaxing, while bold saturated colors will energize you. A bunch with colors that fall near each other on the color wheel will also be more calming; with the opposite effect ensuing if the colors are opposite each other. Curvy shapes have generally been shown to be relaxing -- make an informed choice.

Reading the messages sent by flowers is a well-practiced art. Think about what roses of different colors seem to "say." Ever been disappointed when a potential partner you fancy shows up at your door with yellow roses instead of red ones? In the Internet era, symbolic snafus are harder to explain away. When in doubt, Google.

Enhancing the interior of your house with flowers and plants isn't an excuse to throw environmental responsibility to the wind. Local will probably last longer, anyway.

Flowers and plants in your home have positive psychological payback. Think of them as part of your mental health treatment program.

For plants that help de-stress your space, click through our slideshow below.

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  • Aloe Plant

    The gel of the aloe plant has a number of healing properties, from soothing skin burns and cuts to detoxing the body, and it can also help to monitor the air quality in your home. The plant can help clear the air of pollutants found in chemical cleaning products, and when the amount of harmful chemicals in the air becomes excessive, the plants' leaves will display <a href="http://www.aloearborescens.org/phocadownload/aloe%20health%20efficacy.pdf" target="_blank">brown spots</a>. Just an FYI: Grows best with lots of sun.

  • English Ivy

    NASA scientists <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/10/nasas-guide-to-the-best-p_n_165588.html" target="_blank">listed </a>the English Ivy as the number one best air-filtering houseplant, as it is the most effective plant when it comes to absorbing <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formaldehyde" target="_blank">formaldehyde</a>. It's also incredibly easy to grow and adaptable -- try it as a hanging or a floor plant. Grow in moderate temperatures and medium sunlight.

  • Rubber Tree

    Rubber trees are good for cleaning the air and are one of the easiest plants to grow, as they thrive even in dim lighting and cooler climates. The low-maintenance plant is a powerful toxin eliminator and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/10/nasas-guide-to-the-best-p_n_165588.html" target="_blank">air purifier</a>.

  • Peace Lily

    The beautiful peace lily plant is a wonderful low-maintenance flower to keep in the home. Peace lilies do well in shade and cooler temperatures, and they can reduce the levels of a number of toxins in the air.

  • Snake Plant

    Snake plants don't need much light or water to survive, so they're an easy choice for any corner of your home. The plant absorbs carbon dioxide and <a href="http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20452423_20892299,00.html" target="_blank">releases oxygen </a>during the night (while most plants do during the day), so add one to your bedroom for a clean-air boost.

  • Bamboo Palm

    The attractive bamboo palm also made <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/10/nasas-guide-to-the-best-p_n_165588.html" target="_blank">NASA's list </a>of top clean-air plants with a purifying score of 8.4. It's also particularly effective at clearing out <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benzene" target="_blank">benzene</a> and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trichloroethylene" target="_blank">trichloroethylene</a>. These need to be well-watered, in shade or indirect sunlight.

  • Philodendron

    The heart-shaped philodendron (pictured at left) is a popular plant choice for indoor areas, as they're easy to care for and can grow decorative vines. Like the English Ivy, they are particularly good at <a href="http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19930073077_1993073077.pdf" target="_blank">absorbing formaldehyde</a>. They can also last for many years when properly cared for. Grow with moderate water and some sunlight and they'll be fine.

  • Spider Plant

    One of the most common house plants, Spider Plants are decorative, easy to grow, and also make the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/10/nasas-guide-to-the-best-p_n_165588.html" target="_blank">NASA list</a> of the best air-purifying plants. Spider plants are effective at <a href="http://www.mnn.com/health/healthy-spaces/photos/15-houseplants-for-improving-indoor-air-quality/spider-plant-chlorophyt" target="_blank">fighting pollutants </a>including benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene.

  • Red-Edged Dracaena

    This beautiful, vibrant plant can grow to be ceiling-height (15-foot dracaenas are common), making it a great plant for decorating and filling up space. It also <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/10/nasas-guide-to-the-best-p_n_165588.html" target="_blank">removes toxins</a> including xylene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde from the air. Grows best in sunlight.

  • Golden Pothos

    The Golden Pothos makes the NASA list for its ability to clear formaldehyde from the air. Try adding it to your kitchen or living room as a hanging plant, as the leaves will grow down in cascading vines. They grow easily in cool temperatures will low levels of sunlight.



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