Browsing a bookstore or library can be a little disconcerting. While unsuspectingly scanning the shelves for the latest thriller or romance novel, you turn the corner and find yourself faced with a core-shattering section: “Self-Help”. As you review the titles, a sea of faces beams at you from the book jackets. "Look how happy they are," your subconscious mind prods. “Maybe my self needs some help after all." Mesmerized by all the problems that need improving, you move down the rows and land next door in the section labeled “New Age”. Wow! You are intrigued by all the trinkets in the New Age section: tarot cards, crystals, and pop-up calendars. You wonder how you lived without all of this before. Until this moment you were unaware there was a path to enlightenment. And now before you are ideas to guide you to your fullest life. Relieved, you wonder whom you should thank for this new-found knowledge.
The answer is "hippies." That’s right. Hippies are the very reason both the self-help and new age industries are alive and well today. Not that they invented either, of course. New Age, although anchored in ancient hermetic arts, was first popularized by a group of Socialist writers in the 1890s. The aptly-named Samuel Smiles opened his book Self Help with the line "Heaven helps those who help themselves." Yet it wasn't until the hippies ushered in their own "Age of Aquarius" that the tenets of peace, love, and self-esteem hit the mainstream. Labeled as "counterculture" from the get-go, they knew their war-mad world was backward and sought to change it peacefully. They went to San Francisco and put flowers in their hair. Now, almost forty years after People's Park, Harvard scientists are discovering the power of the movement's secret weapon and why everyone should aspire to be a "Flower Child."
Increased energy. Genuine compassion. Joyful enthusiasm. These are just some of the results charted during a recent study by Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Her test subjects did not ingest mood-stabilizers or undergo hours of therapy. These effects manifested in one week and all Dr. Etcoff did was put flowers in their homes. The test subjects, aged 25-60, found they felt more kindness toward others, less worried at home and more exuberant at work. Jeannette Haviland- Jones, Ph.D., of Rutgers studied the effects of flowers over a ten-month period and found that the energy, compassion, kindness, joy, and enthusiasm were not passing fancies. She also discovered that long-term flower exposure eases anxieties and fosters feelings of intimacy, leading to increased contact with family and friends.
Five (More) Reasons to Embrace Flower Power
Flowers are the perfect gift. Perhaps the most important finding of the Rutgers study was the immediate burst of genuine happiness a person experiences when receiving flowers. This was not limited to one sex, age group, or profession. Imagine being able to cheer someone you love with one simple gesture.
Flowers are easily shared. It's hard for an entire family to cuddle around one self-help book and people generally don't share their therapist with friends. But putting a vase of flowers in a common room spreads the joy easily. And a reduction of stress and increase of enthusiasm across the board means more meaningful, enjoyable social time for everyone involved.
Flowers are a creative outlet. With approximately 250,000 species of flowering plants in the world, the types of flowers you choose can say a lot about you as an artist and person. What colors satisfy you the most? What shapes? Or combinations? Where shall you place them? What type of container works best? Tap into your creative side and see where it takes you.
Flowers are natural (obviously). Taking time to appreciate flowers is a great way to get in touch with nature, or back to basics. Flowers can be found almost anywhere – from the fields of Kentucky to the planters decorating Chicago's Michigan Avenue. Even if you are convinced there are no flowers in your daily environment, it is all a matter of perspective. Perhaps it is the rarest flowers that teach us the most. The late comedian George Carlin put it well. "I like it when a flower or a little tuft of grass grows through a crack in the concrete. It's so (expletive deleted) heroic."
Flowers are good for your heart. Gardening has been shown to reduce everyday stress while providing low-impact aerobic exercise, which is great for your heart! Continued work transforms a garden into a person's sanctuary of sorts, tranquil and relaxing. Watching the seeds you planted bloom fosters feelings of accomplishment and wonder, even if you only have a tiny window box planter.
So hug a hippie if you can find one. You may not share their religious or political beliefs, but they were right about flowers all along. And, "if you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair." You just may find yourself included in the "gentle people" Scott McKenzie sang of. Your mother and your therapist will be glad you have "stopped to smell the roses" and you will understand why you really should have been doing so all along.
Conduct your own study at home!
"What Flower are You?" Quiz http://www.thisgardenisillegal.com/flower-quiz
Authentic Happiness Inventory Questionnaire http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/tests/SameOptionDifferentAnswers_t.aspx?id=258
© 2009 New Perspectives. Permission to copy this article is granted provided the authors are notified and the following bio information is included:
Kathleen Passanisi PT, CSP, CPAE is an internationally recognized transformational speaker, therapeutic humor expert, healthcare professional and author. She has spoken to bajillions of people about life balance, wellness, the power of perception, and the link that exists between humor and health. Kathleen is a member of the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame and the funniest woman in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri (and, quite possibly, the Western Hemisphere.) For more information on Kathleen's presentations, books and products please visit the New Perspectives website at www.KathleenPassanisi.com
Annie Passanisi is the daughter of motivational speaker Kathleen Passanisi. She is also a Chicago-based actor, singer, freelance writer and editor, 1950s pop culture enthusiast, and swing set champion. For more information, please visit www.TheAnniePassanisi.com
Need a mother/daughter speaker team? Have Kathleen and Annie co-present for you.