Can simply viewing a vase of flowers improve one's day at the office? Researchers in China and Japan report that it's possible. In the most recent issue of the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, these researchers describe an experiment in which office workers exposed to a vase of scentless roses for four minutes felt more relaxed and comfortable than a control group in a flowerless environment.
The study participants, all male office workers between 35 and 39 years of age employed by the Mizuho Information & Research Institute, were split into two groups. One group spent four minutes in a waiting room that contained a cylindrical vase of pink Dekora roses. The other group spent time in a waiting room without any flowers. In all other respects, e.g., temperature and lighting, the rooms were the same.
The researchers measured and compared both autonomic nervous system activity and self-reported mood across the two groups. They used accelerated plethysmography (APG), a non-invasive way to detect heart rate changes, to measure autonomic nervous system activity. As measured by APG, heart rate variability (HRV) rose significantly during rose exposure in the experimental group. The researchers attribute this rise to an increase in parasympathetic nervous activity prompted by observing the roses.
Study participants were asked to rate their mode on a 13-point scale while completing the profile of mood states (POMS) questionnaire. POMS measures the mood states of tension, depression, anger, vigor, fatigue, and confusion. The parameters included in this study were "comfortable - uncomfortable," "relaxed - awakening," and "natural - artificial." Study participants in the experimental (exposed to roses) group were significantly more likely to score on the comfortable, relaxed, and natural ends of the scales.
The scientists conclude that the findings of greater parasympathetic nervous system activity and greater self-reported feelings of comfort and relaxation "suggest a simple method for decreasing stress and improving the health of office workers."