Are Flowers Good For Your Health?

man-giving-woman-bouquet-flowers-4779623It is Spring, finally. The air is warm and breezy, and everywhere there is color. Grass and trees are green, and flowers are making a rainbow before our eyes.

For hundreds of years, men have brought women flowers as a gesture of romance. Now there is actual science to show that flowers really do affect mood and make women feel romantic,

A study done by Nicolas Gueguen of the Universite de Bretagne-Sud in France, and published in the journal “Social Influence,” found that females who had been sitting in a flower-covered room were much more likely to accept an invitation for a date than women sitting in an identical room without flowers.

What causes this romantic response in women exposed to flowers? Gueguen suggests that perhaps flowers act as environmental iStock_000014150618XSmallcues that affect a woman’s behavior and perception toward a man.

Other studies have shown relaxation is associated with exposure to nature, and increased activity in facial muscles associated with smiling have been evoked by images of flowers.

A behavioral study conducted at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital confirmed that people who generally do not describe themselves as morning people felt happier and more energetic after looking at flowers the first thing in the morning. Happiness, friendliness and warmth manifest much later in the day for people with morning blahs according to Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D. It was found that flowers at home impact people emotionally and they then felt less anxious and more compassionate. A boost of energy that lasted throughout the day was reported after viewing flowers in the morning in their homes, particularly in the kitchen.

Etcoff states “If you start the day in a more positive mood, you are likely to transfer those positive feelings to others – it’s what is called mood contagion”.guy-giving-flowers-111208

Jeanette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D. is a professor of psychology and director of the Emotions Laboratory at Rutgers University.

She believes that flowers support the so-called Big Bloom theory of evolution. Flowers cause positive emotions, and research shows that positive emotions make people better survivors from an evolutionary standpoint. This is because positive people are more likely to maintain social relationships, reproduce, find needed resources and be creative. Many flowers and plants rely on humans to fertilize them, nurture their growth and remove the weeds that would choke them to death. In return, they give us pleasure.

Scientifically, the way they repay us is that they have developed little chemical factories that decrease anxiety and improve our mood, says Haviland-Jones.

In studies Haviland-Jones and colleagues at Rutgers did, they found that women given flowers all smiled with true enjoyment, as determined by the smile being one associated with the raising of the cheeks and crinkling around the eyes. This type of smile is called the Duchene smile.

Couple  in love smiling. Over white background

This type of smile has been linked to positive emotion and related changes in the brain. At the end of the study, people who received flowers reported being happy but the people in the study who didn’t receive the flowers did not.

Overall, these studies showed that the presence of flowers triggers happy emotions, heightens feelings of life satisfaction, and affects social behavior in a positive manner.

Why is this related to romance? Because when you feel happy, satisfied and relaxed, you are capable of being open to lots of other positive and strong feelings, like love and sexual desire.

So giving flowers to your significant other is a very good way to ensure the flow of loving and aroused feelings, all of which are very good for your mental and physical health.

Women and Power – in the Workplace and in the Bedroom

This week, I heard a very disturbing report from a foreign correspondent about how the Chinese are reacting to news of Hilary Clinton’s candidacy for President.

It seems that the Chinese Internet is abuzz with hate mail, calling her an “old witch” and many far-worse things.

imagesWhen the interviewer asked the correspondent why the Chinese feel this way, he said there were two reasons.  One was the fact that as Secretary of State Ms. Clinton was very hard on the Chinese government.  The second was that in China, women are viewed as having value only as sexual beings or if successful and powerful, it is thought to be because they are “manly”.  In other words, they have no intrinsic value as women, but since men are inherently strong and worthwhile, powerful women must be “manly” (having qualities of men).

What is so upsetting about this is that it negates any value for a woman as her own person, with her own abilities and mind.

All around the world right now, women are being badly mistreated and their worth ignored. They are considered to be objects and abuse is acceptable.  How can women expect to have self-worth and feel good about themselves when our societies keep trying to move backward in time and take away their personhood?

I believe that women must start to believe in themselves and each other to develop a true sense of self-esteem.  If they haven’t been given this as children from loving and caring parents who respected them, they must get it elsewhere.  Often women treat each other with disdain, siding with men to hurt or abuse other women.  Things like stoning or other violent punishments in many countries often involve other women as well as men.  This is because these women have been basically brainwashed to believe what the men have told them.  They are afraid to stand up to the men as they then may be harmed as well.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 11.01.32 AM 2I think we need all the strong women we can get in the world.  Women can start by taking some risks in their everyday life.  They can try being in charge in the bedroom sometimes.  Many women are too afraid to even ask for what they want sexually for fear of alienating the man in their lives.  If your husband or significant other is so threatened he can’t handle your expressing your wants and needs, then he needs to deal with his problem, it’s not yours.

Powerful women are not a threat to confident men, only to insecure ones.  Learning to see yourself as a separate and unique individual who can function independently is an important first step towards true independence. A sense of independence is something that is inside you, not something that is given to you by someone else.

Encouragement and support are essential and can come from anywhere or anyone. Reaching out to girlfriends or family members is a good start.  Finding something you believe in is equally important.  You will gain strength if you are working to accomplish something you value and care about.

Single or Married – Do Women Have a Choice?

There is a new book out (which I haven’t yet read) by Kate Bolick called “Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own”.  The author’s background is impressive.  She is a contributing editor to The Atlantic, a freelance writer for Elle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. Also, she is single.

I read an article about the book in The Washington Post and a couple others as well.  What I found so interesting is that this woman who is clearly very successful and quite attractive has found it very difficult to make a choice to be single.  I completely understand this, as it is a topic I indirectly deal with in my book, “Sizzle”.  I believe that our culture, even in 2015, still puts heavy pressure on women to grow up, find a man and marry, and then to have children.22696026-Break-up-ending-relationship-between-husband-and-wife-Couple-in-divorce-crisis-Man-woman-unhappy-hol-Stock-Photo

While this is a perfectly acceptable route to take if it is what one wants, my experience as a psychotherapist has taught me that many women, if not most have never really chosen this.  They followed the path shown to them by family, friends, Church or Synagogue, and society at large.  Few women I have come across at any age have really examined their own lives and feelings to determine what they felt was best for them.  Many marry and then a few years later, or in some cases, many years later, come to me saying they feel empty and unhappy and not in control of their own destinies.  They look back to the time they married, and feel they had no choice.  They would have been looked down on, ostracized, for picking a future as a single woman. They cite fear of a future by themselves and pressure as the reasons they married.

Many women have told me they fell in love with their husbands, but now realize that they could have lived together for a while and then gone their separate ways.  They did not have to make a lifelong commitment and end up angry and unfulfilled.  They say that they wanted to travel, see the world, and explore different parts of themselves that the boundaries of married life and children did not allow.

 Ms. Bolick tells us about five women from literary history that were her inspiration.  Each took her life into her own hands and pursued her own dreams.  She discusses how single women have changed their role in society’s order, and how much this role is determined by political, economic and cultural conditions in the society at any given time.

imgresI am not seeing enough independence of thought and decision among women today and it bothers me. While they have made great strides in the workplace, expectations for them by men and our culture seem to be stuck where they were a hundred years ago.  There is clearly still a stigma to being an unmarried woman into your thirties and beyond.  People try to “find someone for you” and encourage you “not to give up” as though your singleness is an illness or a blot on your desirability.

People seem unwilling or unable to recognize that this might be a choice a woman has made because she wants the freedom of this kind of lifestyle.  They also don’t seem to understand that choice is a fluid thing, not stagnant.  You can choose one thing at one point in your life then choose the opposite later.  There are also many choices in between.  A woman can be married, single, live with someone else, live alone but be in a relationship, or she can have an affair.  I am not making any judgments about these choices, merely stating that they exist in the real world.  They are options apart from marriage.

The choice (or lack of it) about marriage is closely connected to choices about sexuality.  Women have allowed themselves to be put in structured roles as to their sexuality.  As a result, I see many very confused women who are embarrassed, ashamed or angry with who they are sexually.

We are sexual beings.  It is a major part of our identity.  If we are taught to deny it, how can we feel like complete human beings?  How can we have the confidence to give ourselves to someone else physically?  How can we feel really free?

Finally, it’s not about being a single woman or a married woman.  It’s about having the freedom and strength of character to make your own choice.

Art Imitating Life or the Other Way Around?

I saw a very lovely movie Sunday night – 5 to 7 – written and directed by Victor Levin.  In addition to being really well-written (always a joy to a fellow writer) it was a very interesting and somewhat personal movie for … Continue reading

What Are You Really Seeing When You Look at a New Boyfriend or Girlfriend?

You’ve met a new woman – maybe at Starbucks or at a party.  She’s smart, very pretty and best of all, she seems to like you.  You’ve taken that first step and asked her out for pizza.  Now you’re sitting … Continue reading