Have you ever noticed how lighting your favorite candle can have an instant calming effect on you after a long day of work? How walking into a store with freshly baked cookies can make you feel warm and cozy? How smelling certain fragrances can be an exhilarating experience? For many years, our sense of smell has been associated with well-being, where different scents have been used to curate a healthy ambience and a strong sense of contentment.
While there is ongoing research around this topic, there is plenty of evidence to show that our minds are wired in a way that allows fragrances to positively influence us in ways bigger than we think. Which is why it comes as no surprise that the health and wellness community has taken a keen interest in understanding the powerful impact that scents have on the human psyche. There has even been a shift in consumers who now look for alternate measures to treat mental health challenges, including scents, fragrances, and essential oils for aromatherapy.
Have you ever wondered about the association of smells with the way they make you feel? You might be wondering about the different ways in which scents affect your psychology when it comes to confidence, mood, stress, and overall well being. This article will explore the magic of scents, how they affect the olfactory system, and the four ways aroma can impact mental health and wellbeing.
Scents And The Brain’s Olfactory System
The smell is one of the primal senses that affects the human body in various ways through an interaction with its olfactory system. The olfactory cortex is part of the temporal lobe inside the human brain, which is responsible for processing sensory inputs. This is part of the limbic system constituting other parts such as the amygdala, the hypothalamus, and hippocampus. The amygdala is responsible for our memories and emotions and the hippocampus for associated learning, which is why certain smells produce a strong sense of nostalgia within us.
It is interesting to learn that scents work through our experiences with them through associated learning. Simply put, this means that for our body to trigger a response to a particular smell, it must first learn to associate an event with it. Once that association is established, a conditioned response is triggered every time we encounter that smell. These deep neural associations can explain why we like certain smells over others and how they can cause an emotional reaction. Because scents cause psychological responses within us, they can be used to our advantage.
Scents Can Help You Sleep Better
Certain scents are proven to help induce a longer and deeper sleep. Insomnia is often associated with specific stressors in our brain that can be alleviated with the use of smells like roses, vanilla, and, most commonly, lavender. In fact, a study conducted by Maryland University concludes that aromatherapy using lavender has proven to help those suffering from sleeping disorders. It works by soothing and slowing down the nervous system’s activities, thereby helping people relax and sleep much better. If you want a good night’s sleep, get yourself a lavender spray for your room and linens. Lavender will work its magic and help you sleep better.
Scents Combat Stress, Anxiety, And Depression
Aromatherapy using fragrances and essential oils has been a very common tradition over the years. This is because the smell is a powerful force that directly influences our brain’s working and, subsequently, our mood. Scents impact the brain waves and calm the nerves. To maximize their effect, scents can be combined with other stress-relieving methods such as meditation and massages.
Certain scents such as vanilla and coffee are known to alleviate anxiety symptoms such as high blood pressure and increased heart rate. Research also showed that introducing patients suffering from depression to certain scents reduced their depressive symptoms significantly, indicating that scents and aromatherapy can be used alongside other medications.
Scents Enhance Concentration
If you are having trouble concentrating at work or school, you should consider incorporating certain fragrances into your daily routine because of their ability to increase concentration. Due to its ability to fasten the brain’s activity, peppermint is an excellent choice of fragrance for this purpose. Smelling peppermint gives a boost of energy that improves cognition and clear thinking, so it can be taken before a study or gym session for effective results. A study conducted by the Eastern Middle School showed that when students were given peppermint candies before a test, it resulted in increased concentration and far better results. Other than peppermint, several fragrances produce the same effect, such as citrus scents like orange, lemon, and strawberry.
Scents Improve Memory
Because smells make their way to the thalamus through the nose, passing the amygdala and the hippocampus, they interact with our brain’s compartment for emotion and memory. Which is why smells form associations and can trigger a response based on the feeling attached to that association. This mechanism means that our sense of smell can effectively prompt our memory, which can be incredibly helpful while sitting through exams. To enhance the ability to recall specific information, try inhaling the same scent you used while studying it. Before an exam, you can put on a particular cologne and wear the same cologne to the exam itself. Smelling that particular scent will help you recall all that you studied.
The connection between smell and memory is so strong that research shows how it is easier to recall things based on smells than actual experiences. People who spend time apart from their loved ones often realize that smelling an article of clothing or their perfume can evoke a feeling of physically being there with them. This feeling is generally felt more strongly as compared to looking at their picture.
When it comes to scents, there is definitely more to them than meets the nose. As one of our oldest instincts, our sense of smell does more than we think by influencing our brain activity. This is why various smells play a hand in enhancing mood, increasing concentration and memory, and stress-release. While research on the matter remains ongoing, there is no doubt that scents can be incorporated into our everyday health regime to feel good and enhance our well-being.
What are some of your favorite fragrances that help you unwind at the end of a stressful day? Any tips on how to incorporate scents for a healthier lifestyle? Let us know in the comment section below.