Catherine StewartFlowers feed kindness and compassion

Do you like being given flowers? While the benefits of receiving flowers are well-documented, new research shows there’s much more to it – flowers around the home make you feel more kind and compassionate, and boost many positive feelings.

Cut flowers bring joy

Cut flowers bring joy

The ‘Home Ecology of Flowers‘ study from Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that when people have flowers around their homes it induces greater feelings of compassion and kindness, and also reduces worry and anxiety.

Flower-filled courtyard

Flower-filled courtyard

Previous research has concentrated more on the positive effect people feel when they receive a bunch of flowers, rather than the longer term benefits of seeing them daily. This study found a change in mood after less than a week of flowers in the home. (A control group were given an attractive décor item instead).

Participants placed flowers in rooms where they spent the most time, including kitchens, dining rooms and family rooms and said that they looked forward to seeing the flowers each morning, which created a noticeable mood ‘pick-me-up’. Within a week they showed greater kindness and compassion, as well as reporting having fewer negative or depressed thoughts.

My flower-filled front garden

My flower-filled front garden

Says lead researcher Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D:

“The morning blahs, it turns out, is a real phenomenon, with positive moods – happiness, friendliness and warmth, for example – manifesting much later in the day. Interestingly, when we placed a small bouquet of flowers into their morning routines, people perked up.”

Even better, the study found that those beneficial effects stayed all day, as those living with flowers around their home also reported feeling happier and more enthusiastic and energetic at work as well.

pink dahlia


I think that apart from flowers inside the home, we should look at flowers outside too. Foliage gardening is smart and attractive, and fresh home-grown vegies are good for your body, but I think it’s a flower-filled garden that brings feelings of joy and pleasure. Making sure there are flowers to look out at from the main windows in your home could well have the same effect as having cut flowers in a vase inside. And think what you could do for all the passersby in your neighbourhood by offering them a flower-filled garden to enjoy as they walk past….

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Catherine Stewart

About Catherine Stewart

Award-winning garden journalist, blogger and photographer; writer for garden magazines and co-author of 'Waterwise Gardening'; landscape designer turned landscape design judge and critic; compulsive networker and lover of generally putting fingers in lots of pies. Particularly mud pies. Original creator of GardenDrum. South Coast NSW.

13 thoughts on “Flowers feed kindness and compassion

  1. Happy happy joy joy! Myriad colour, form and texture…what’s not to like about these prostitutes for the bees?

    I consider myself very lucky to have had the gardening hooks so deeply embodied for so long. The way plants give back so much more than what I put in, almost denies the laws of physics.

    All the very best to you and all your contributors for the new year too Catherine. You run a fabulous, hugely informative site here.

    • I like that observation on the ’emotional budget’ of gardening. I find it usually gives back more than it takes, except for dealing with voracious rabbits and possums which destroys the soul very rapidly. And thanks for your best wishes Eugene, and your many interesting comments.

  2. Lovely article! I’ve been enjoying more flowers this year in my garden as I decided to change my vegetable patch into a perennial garden. It is filled with colour and vibrancy instead of the parched water thirsty patch of previous years. It is indeed a great “pick-me-up” as I’ve loved viewing it all and the bees have loved it too!! Hooray for colourful flowers!

  3. This is very thought provoking, Catherine. I agree, there is nothing quite like a garden full of flowers to lift the spirits. I find it fascinating how different garden styles evoke different emotions. Predominantly foliage gardens can be extremely serene and relaxing. I only wish I had enough space at home to create a garden for each and every experience!

    • Yes I agree that a foliage garden can look serene but I wonder if it really has that effect on our mood? Maybe it’s one of those things that we think should happen but has no scientific evidence to support it, like often-quoted effects of particular colours on people’s moods, such as red being stimulating and blue soothing.

      • Interesting, and I am sure there is a huge amount of truth to that. I do think these ‘often-quoted’ effects are true for me, but perhaps only because I have learnt to feel in those ways. There is an argument, however, that if you feel them, you feel them, and it doesn’t really matter too much whether it is a direct neurological response or one that goes via some preformed links in your brain. The only issue is if some do and some don’t feel that way – then the garden designer has a real challenge on their hands!

        • Yes, perhaps expectation can create a classical conditioning where we associate 2 things with each other so strongly that we begin to really ‘feel’ it, even though it’s a learned rather than innate response. But different cultures have different associations so it’s getting harder to generalise. A bit like the change in our thoughts about pink and blue over the past century, where the colour associations for boys and girls have somehow managed to reverse themselves.

  4. I can relate to the benefits of receiving flowers but I also find that if I am feeling happy I will pick some flowers from the garden (or buy a bunch) to put in the house. Having read your article I will make an effort to bring flowers into the house when I am feeling less than happy too.

  5. Yes I’m looking forward to when my Aloe Bush Baby Yellow starts flowering next month. It looks wonderful in the garden and in a vase. Then a whole autmnm-winter of the other aloes following it! Joy indeed!

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