As human beings, we have sought out flowers since civilization began. We have given them in times of grief and triumph and to express everything from love to contrition. But why? Certainly there are gifts that would last longer or be more useful, yet we turn to flowers again and again. The answer might just lie in our biology.
In a 2005 study, Jeanette Haviland-Jones, a researcher in the psychology department at Rutgers University, and her team set out to explore the effects flowers have on mood and behavior. They suggest that perhaps flowers have evolved with humans, providing us joy and beauty in exchange for cultivation.
Yellow roses symbolize friendship, optimism, and joy
The Rutgers study found that flowers “have immediate and long-term effects on emotional reactions, mood, social behaviors, and even memory for both males and females.” The study was broken up into three parts. In the first scenario, flowers were presented to women to gauge their responses; in the second, a flower or another small gift was presented to men and women; and in the third, flowers were gifted to elderly participants who then self-reported their moods.
The study concluded that when women were presented with flowers they responded with a Duchene (or true) smile every time, and they reported improved moods three days after the flowers were given. In the elevator scenario, both men and women responded more positively to being presented with a flower than with other similar small gifts. And the elderly participants not only reported more positive moods as a result of their flowers but also improved memory.
Chrysanthemums symbolize joy, happiness, and beauty
Taking all of these benefits into consideration, it seems pretty likely that we, as human beings, have coevolved with flowers to a certain extent, as posited by the Rutgers study. At the very least, flowers provide us with clear benefits so it makes sense that we would continue to tend them to ensure we keep receiving those benefits.
I think on some level we all already know that flowers simply make us happy. Life can get hectic and stress can be inevitable, so why not take happiness anyway when we can get it?
For related content, see 5 Ways to Avoid Gifting that Feels Impersonal and Cliche.