Tag Archives: flowers

The Power of Re-Framing, or, Would a Ranunculus By Another Name Be As Beautiful?

The other night, it was my turn to host my children’s literature reading group — I’m now in three of these groups! Partly because I am in three of the groups, I keep the bar low, so I served take-out Chinese food and store-bought cookies, as I always do — but I did resolve to take the trouble to buy flowers for the table (though I must confess, I didn’t even go to a proper florist’s shop, but went to the deli around the corner from my house — lower the bar).

When I want to get the flowers, I was thrilled to see that one of my very favorite flowers was available. I hadn’t even known the name of this flower until a few years ago, and I’ve always been sorry that it has such an unlovely name: ranunculus.

I was moved to post this observation on Twitter (@gretchenrubin). I wrote: “My favorite flower is so beautiful, but cursed with a name that sounds more like a wart on the sole of your foot: Ranunculus.”

To my satisfaction, one person answered me with a comment that showed recognition of my allusion to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, when Mr. Wonka says to the bratty little girl Veruca,”I always thought that a veruca was a sort of wart that you got on the sole of your foot.”

Even better, another person observed that “ranunculus” sounds like a spell from the world of Harry Potter. And it’s true, it sounds exactly like that. Instantly, my regret about the ugly name of ranunculus was transformed into delight. I imagined a bouquet of flowers springing into the air from a wand. Ranunculus!

Such is the power of re-framing. Now I love the name “ranunculus.” As Shakespeare observed, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Have you ever managed to re-frame something, to turn displeasure into pleasure?

* As I mentioned in the post about Cultivate good smells, I’ve become very interesting in the sense of smell. I came across a highly specialized, strangely fascinating blog, Now Smell This — a blog all about perfume. I love the internet!

* The Happiness Project is keeping its place on the New York Times paperback bestseller list, yay!
Order your copy.
Read sample chapters.
Watch the one-minute book video.
Listen to a sample of the audiobook.

Cultivate Good Smells.

One of my latest, and favorite, happiness resolutions is to Cultivate good smells.

I’d never thought much about the sense of smell, but after some research — and just paying more attention — I realize how critical this sense is to my feelings of vitality and enjoyment.

It’s a cliche to “stop and smell the roses,” of course, but just an hour ago, I had to make an effort to stop and smell the gardenia plant that my six-year-old and I walked past, on our way home from her kindergarten. The gardenia was sitting on the sidewalk, outside a flower shop, and when I saw it, I had to make the micro-decision: Stop or keep walking? I always hear a voice whispering, “Come on! Get this done! You don’t have time for that!” so I had to remind myself, “I have plenty of time for the things that are important to me. The smell of gardenias is one of my very favorite smells. There’s time to stop.”

My daughter and I stopped. The gardenia smelled lovely. So many flowers have had their scents bred out of them — so often hyacinths and roses don’t smell much — but not gardenias.

A particular scent can bring back memories with an intensity matched by few other triggers. In the most famous example, Marcel Proust recalled long-forgotten memories when he smelled and tasted a Madeleine biscuit soaked in linden tea; in fact, these kinds of involuntary and vivid rushes of memory evoked by the senses are called “Proustian memories.” Gardenias always remind me of my husband.

In my research, I was interested to learn that my happiness affects my sense of smell — and vice versa. A person in a good mood perceives a neutral odor (like rubbing alcohol) as more pleasant than a person in a bad mood, and doesn’t become as annoyed by bad smells; at the same time, smelling an enjoyable odor can help alleviate anxiety and increase tolerance for pain.

I’m doing whatever I can think of to eliminate the bad smells and appreciate the good scents in my life, and I’ve been surprised by how much richness and emotional texture it adds to my ordinary day.

Have you found any interesting ways to have more appreciation for the good smells in your life? Or any ways to eliminate bad smells? I’ve become much more vigilant about our trash area since I made this resolution.

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

* Sally Hogshead wrote a very interesting book, Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation — and she’s created a terrific, quick personality test, the F Score, to measure “How are you fascinating?” I can never resist a great personality test.

* Is your book group reading The Happiness Project? (I know a lot of groups were waiting for the paperback release.) I’ve prepared a one-page discussion guide for book groups, as well as a guide tailored for church groups, prayer circles, spirituality book groups, and the like. If you’d like either discussion guide (or both), email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com. (Don’t forget the “1.”)

Also, if you’d like free personalized bookplates for your group (or just for yourself or for a gift), email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com, and let me know how many you’d like, what names you need, and your mailing address. I’ll mail them anywhere in the world.