He Said, She Said…What’s More Important, Being Right or Being Happy?

All of us like to be right.  It seems to be a built-in instinct in humans, this strong need for affirmation of our rightness.  With couples in relationships, it often takes the form of discussions that dissolve into arguments starting … Continue reading

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.

Is It All About The Tie?

Fifty Shades of Grey hit the movie-going public like a tornado last month.  Even though there was some optimism that opening weekend would go well (based on the over one hundred million books sold worldwide) no one in the movie industry was prepared for the over ninety-five million in box office the movie took in over Valentine’s Day weekend.

Why am I doing a blog about this?  Because as a sex therapist, I am interested in what such an interest in a story about bondage means.  

2000px-BDSM_acronym.svgBDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism, Masochism) are aspects of sexuality that have been around since our species figured out that two bodies together kept warmer than each one alone.  There has been much debate about whether Fifty Shades is about two people role-playing and having fun with sex and with full consent, or whether there is a darker side to this, one that is perhaps troubling to people worried about women’s safety and their rights.

Emma Green, the assistant managing editor of Atlantic.com writes that fantasy is both an escape from reality and an expression of a hidden desire.  She tells us that in culture, it both reflects who we are and shapes what we become.  

imgresViolence and sex walks a fine line …we need to be very careful not to let it spill over to a point where there is no control for both people.  Some guys get turned on by violence during sex, probably a throwback to the days when they had to grab their woman by the hair and drag her into the cave for sex.  Some women like it too, possibly enjoying letting go and feeling the strength of the man running the show.

As a therapist I believe that for people who enjoy this it is crucial to talk about it first.  Make sure BOTH people are really into it, and decide what is acceptable and when to stop.  

Sex is about vulnerability which means, especially for women, you need to be able to trust the man and know that you’re safe. Then you can make room for the openness that lets in intimacy and connection.  So go ahead, enjoy the tie, but don’t overdo it!