How Ikebana Arrangements Help You Feel Calm

Ikebana Arrangements Help You Feel Calm

In an age where our lives are easily cluttered by our surroundings and when everything is seemingly out of control in the world, we become easily distracted or feel anxious. Maybe even to the point of overwhelm.

Learn how these Japanese style flower arrangements also known as ikebana can help you feel calm and connect with nature for a few moments.

Perhaps it might even become your new hobby or activity – one that can help you feel calm at the same time creatively accomplished!


Results of studies by Homma I, et al suggest that practising ikebana is beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety in people with high trait anxiety.

Personally I’ve found that whenever I am making Japanese style flower arrangements, it helps me to slow down, become grounded in the present, and eventually gain a sense of calmness.

There is a feeling of stillness while I’m observing my plant materials and deciding how to place them in my arrangement.

While I’m not a mental health professional, I know I’m not the only one who experiences the calming effects of ikebana. 

According to Wikipedia, “all of Japan’s most celebrated generals notably practised flower arranging, finding that it calmed their minds and made their decisions on the field of action clearer”.

What’s more, it’s not just for the person who is making the arrangement that feels this sense of tranquillity. The observer of ikebana flower arrangements can also experience some of these relaxing effects. 

ikebana calming hobby

How does ikebana help you feel calm?

What is it about Japanese style of flower arrangements that can instil a sense of calm or peace in a person?

There are in fact a number of reasons. But in this post, I’ll talk about a floral design principle which is amplified in ikebana arrangements and applied so differently compared to Western style flower arrangements. 

The design principle I’m referring to is space. And in ikebana, it’s actually about the use of negative space, known as “Ma” (間).

This principle is often seen in traditional Japanese gardens and ikebana. You can read more about this concept in an article by Unique Japan

Or watch this Youtube video to learn more about “Ma”.

What is Negative Space in a Flower Arrangement?

Negative space is a space that is not filled with any materials in a flower arrangement. Conversely positive space is the area in floral design physically occupied by materials including the vase.

In ikebana or kado (the Japanese style of flower arranging), space is seen as something either to be preserved or created. It is not something to be filled up, like western style floristry. 

(You can also learn more about the key differences between Western and Japanese style flower arrangements in another post here.)

How negative space in ikebana Arrangements Help You Feel Calm

The negative space (“empty” space) in ikebana arrangements helps you feel calm because it: 

  • provides breathing space for the viewer so the arrangement does not feel excessive or overly cluttered. Unlike western floristry, it does not strive to fill up all empty spaces. As a result, it slows down the busy mind and allows the viewer to calm down and be present. 
  • allows the viewer to engage with the composition of the arrangement. Ikebana arrangements often have an asymmetrical visual balance which tends to  stimulate the brain more than a Western style symmetrical arrangement. The viewer, being intrigued, is drawn to study the arrangement more closely, and is, in the process, restored to the present.
  • leads the viewer to become connected with nature while focusing on the important parts of an arrangement. When there is negative space, the main elements of the arrangement become more apparent. For instance one’s eye begins to follow the natural curve of a branch. And the viewer is gradually being led to “engage” with nature as it is being represented in the arrangement. 


Negative Space Japanese Style Flower Arrangements
The Use of Negative Space in a Japanese Style Flower Arrangement

Negative space is used in ikebana arrangements particularly when you want to showcase a characteristic of the floral material. Or perhaps when you wish to draw the viewer’s attention to appreciate a particular aspect. You would therefore create some space around it.

Consider using negative space for maximum impact particularly when you have little materials to work with or when you have beautiful materials you want to display to great effect. As mentioned before, this is not limited to flowers but also natural graceful lines of branches or twigs.

The principle of negative space helps to create harmonious relationships between elements. The negative space implies there is movement in the composition. In fact this could inspire the imagination of the viewer as our brain will help to complete that is incomplete. You can read more about how the Kanizsa Triangle explains the law of closure.

Now that we have explored how negative space in ikebana arrangements help you feel calm and when to use it, let’s look at how we can create negative space in an arrangement.

How is Negative Space Created in an Ikebana Arrangement?

Ikebana helps you feel calm
Negative Space in Ikebana Helps You Feel Calm

Create negative space in your flower arrangement by carefully considering how you would place your materials in your arrangement. 

When making your arrangement, treat negative space as if it is one of your physical components in the composition.

The creation of negative space should not be an afterthought. This is because you want to create a visual balance that optimises the use of positive and negative spaces.

Another aspect of negative space is that it acts as an amplifier. It makes the overall composition more interesting than the sum of individual parts.

When creating your arrangement, observe the space around the arrangement too. Look at the shadows cast on the table or wall next to the arrangement. This can add to the overall aesthetics of a floral arrangement.

That’s why in ikebana we become careful with the material we use. We carefully consider how much to use, leave out, or even remove when making an arrangement. It’s also why many consider ikebana arrangements to be minimalist.

For some ikebana inspiration, you might like to check out my other posts on the ikebana floral style or visit the Sogetsu Ikebana NSW website.

If you are a western floristry student needing to understand the use of negative space, it’d be a great idea to do a little study on Japanese style arrangements. It will give you insights into how to use negative space to the fullest effect.

Your Next Step in Exploring More Ikebana

I hope the next time you have flowers in your home or if you’re thinking of gifting someone with flowers, you’ll consider this Japanese style of flowers that help you feel calm. This fascinating floral style will definitely capture the recipient’s attention and make it a memorable gift.

If you’re interested in picking up flower arranging as your new creative hobby, come and join my free Facebook Group, Fusion Florals Circle, where I share inspiration, ideas and tips based on Western and Japanese art of flower arranging. Head over to my Facebook community here

Or if you’d like to learn my best tips on how to make an ikebana arrangement, sign up for my FREE IKEBANA GUIDE.

free guide


Studies have shown that arranging with flowers can help you relax and reduce stressful feelings. Ikebana is a great way for you to get in touch with nature while being creative with flowers. No prior training required – just A LOVE OF FLOWERS!

In my FREE GUIDE you learn my BEST TIPS and PRACTICAL STEPS (including visuals) so you can GET STARTED.



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As a qualified floral designer specialising in Japanese ikebana and modern elegant styles, I offer custom arrangements and classes for individuals looking to decorate their wedding, event and space with flowers.

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