WHY SCENT AFFECTS YOUR MOOD AND EMOTIONS
2 MIN READ
Hear me out, your nose might be the key to your happiness…
Okay, so maybe that’s a little hyperbolic, but the truth is aromatherapy is nothing to shake a stick at. Your sense of smell is the strongest of all your senses – you may have experienced this for yourself.
Play along, if you will. When I mention freshly cut grass, warm gravy, a smoky campfire, or even an outdated perfume like Gap Dream, did you instantly have a memory pop-up?
Maybe you remembered your dad cutting the lawn when you were a kid, or being at your grandma’s for thanksgiving dinner, or the camping trip you took last summer – maybe you even remembered being thirteen dancing to Chumbawamba in velvet pants drenched in a cheap (Gap) perfume – or maybe that’s just me…
Jokes aside, there is a real reason for these whip-sharp aroma-triggered memories. Your olfactory receptor neurons (also known as the olfactory bulb) are located conveniently behind your sinuses, and are the only neurons in your body that are exposed to air and actually make physical contact with the molecules that create a smell.
These receptors have a seriously intimate relationship with your brain, in that, when they come into contact with an odor, they talk about it – aka they send the signal directly to your brain.
This relationship is so strong that it can even trigger your taste buds.
Don’t tell me you’ve never had the experience of looking at a bag of salt and vinegar chips and not been able to actually taste them – just from looking.
But this intense relationship goes even further than just taste, it can also affect how you perceive people, places and things, and of course, your emotions. This is because that part of your brain that processes these smells, is also where you store memories.
This part of your brain is called the limbic system, and it’s also where your moods and emotions are processed. Which is precisely why, when I mentioned cut grass, gravy, campfire, and cheap perfume, you didn’t only have a memory, it also brought up an emotion.
The research into why and how this happens is actually pretty extensive, and recent studies have shown just how odors can overtly or subliminally modulate mood and emotion. Meaning, bad smells can put you in a bad mood, and vice versa for good smells.
Now, the curious part of this, where the research is not as extensive, is how to use this to your own advantage and utilize it to boost your mood and elevate your mental wellness.
Enter aromatherapy or olfactory mood-boosting practices.
It’s been said that your mood throughout a day can be dictated by how the first hour after waking plays out – hence the saying ‘got up on the wrong side of the bed’.
This where incorporating aromatherapy into your morning routine can play a critical role in setting you up for having a positive day. Ditto that for your nighttime routine.
It’s said that certain smells can reduce cortisol and even help promote sleep, such as lavender. On the flip side, some scents, like peppermint, are even purported to be able to boost your energy and cognition.
While you most definitely cannot prevent yourself from experiencing any kind of stress or anxiety in your day to day life, you absolutely can take a bit of control into your own hands by using scent as a liferaft.
By lighting a candle, diffusing essential oils or using skin care products that offer olfactory mood-boosting properties, like Halo AM Oil Cleanser and Prism PM Oil Cleanser, you may just be able to reset your limbic system and set yourself up for having a good day.
Life happens, but it doesn’t have to happen to you. So next time you’re feeling down or overwhelmed, try a little aromatherapy to lift your spirits.