flowers cropped

Writing in 1898 about the effect of beauty, both in nature and art, on the well-being and healing of patients, Florence Nightingale observed:

 Colour and form means of recovery.

The effect in sickness of beautiful objects, of variety of objects, and especially of brilliancy of colour is hardly at all appreciated. Such cravings are usually called the “fancies” of patients. And often doubtless patients have “fancies,” as e.g. when they desire two contradictions. But much more often, their (so called) “fancies” are the most valuable indications of what is necessary for their recovery. And it would be well if nurses would watch these (so called) “fancies” closely. I have seen, in fevers (and felt, when I was a fever patient myself), the most acute suffering produced from the patient (in a hut) not being able to see out of window, and the knots in the wood being the only view. I shall never forget the rapture of fever patients over a bunch of bright-coloured flowers. I remember (in my own case) a nosegay of wild flowers being sent me, and from that moment recovery becoming more rapid.

This is no fancy.

 People say the effect is only on the mind. It is no such thing. The effect is on the body, too. Little as we know about the way in which we are affected by form, by colour, and light, we do know this, that they have an actual physical effect. Variety of form and brilliancy of colour in the objects presented to patients are actual means of recovery. But it must be _slow_ variety, e.g., if you shew a patient ten or twelve engravings successively, ten-to-one that he does not become cold and faint, or feverish, or even sick; but hang one up opposite him, one on each successive day, or week, or month, and he will revel in the variety.   Florence Nightingale 1898 : Notes on Nursing What It Is, and What It Is Not

What a timeless and powerful reminder to drink in some beauty each day - it’s very, very good for us!

F. Nightingale quotes: