In southern Asia, nestled between India and China, there’s a small mountainous country called Bhutan. It’s not a very large country – it’s got a population of less than 750,000 – and it’s not a very rich country, as it’s landlocked and difficult to get to for bulk trade. In 1972, Bhutan decided to start measuring it’s annual economic growth in Gross National Happiness instead of Gross Domestic Product. The reason for this shift was simple – Bhutan was relatively poor but also relatively independent in comparison to other countries. Instead of measuring success by measuring piles of money, they decided it was more in accordance with their values to measure things like sustainable development, environmental beautification and cultural promotion.
This worked out for the small, mountainous landlocked country of Bhutan – they stopped measuring their growth internally according to wealth, and in the 2012 World Factbook survey they were listed as the 11th fastest-growing economy in the world. In thirty short years, a focus on environmental beautification and sustainable solutions assisted in creating some serious wealth for the folks who call Bhutan home.
So what’s this all got to do with flowers? Think about how you treat yourself when you need a mood boost, for a second – what do you do? I generally go out for a nice meal, or go shopping, or maybe go see a show. While these options are all fun and do improve my mood, the effects are generally short term. Most of the time, when we treat ourselves we’re creating little episodes of happiness – this meal, when we wear these pants, that time we saw that band. The Rutgers University study “An Environmental Approach to Positive Emotion” indicates there may be a better way to increase our general positivity – research focused on how the presence of flowers impact emotions and social behaviors. Apparently, “flowers have immediate and long-term effect on emotional reactions, mood, social behaviors and even memory for both males and females.” My favorite experimental result? The researchers noted that they:
“received attractive ‘Thank You’ cards and letters from several participants who received flowers for allowing them to be in the study, some with photographs of the flowers, one with multiple photographs to show the continuing beauty of the bouquet. In many years of studying emotions, [they] have never received hugs and kisses, thank you notes or photographs, not even for candy, doughnuts, decorated shirts or hats, gift certificates, or direct monetary payment; the flowers are different.”
So how often do you think about beautifying and sustaining the environment we live in as a means to improve our moods and relationships? The answer, apparently, should be way more often. The study tells us the presence of flowers in shared spaces improves social contact and enhance openness and communication. There are also traditions of specific flowers being used for specific purposes – Irises improve confidence, Lilacs decrease stress, red roses create energy. I’d love to hear if any of y’all have any opinions or experience that can support these claims.
Starbright employees will be performing our own experiments – but I’m not sure if we’re an objective audience. As of now, I can definitely tell you these folks are more happy more of the time than my colleagues have ever been at any of the other places I’ve been employed. It’s actually Barbara, Victor, Eddie and Anna I’m thinking about right now – even during the busiest of weeks (leading up to Valentine’s Day) during the worst of weather (a blizzard in a polar vortex) these guys had smiles to pass around.