Continuing with my theme of how easy it can be to take responsibility for enhancing mood, today I’m taking a look at scents and how they can affect us.
I’m sure you’ve used candles to create a relaxing and warming ambience as an aid to de-stressing but have you thought about the scent of those candles and the effect that has on your mood? Creating a warming environment is a great step towards relaxing but for this to be effective in enhancing mood, you need to be choosing the right scent for you.
How can smell influence our emotions and moods?
We can detect thousands of different smells from sensitive receptors in our nasal cavity. These olfactory receptors send messages to our brain via the olfactory bulb and are then processed in the limbic system. The limbic system is an area associated with memory and feeling.
The olfactory bulb links the area of our brain that processes emotion with the area that is responsible for associative learning. There has to be a link between the smell and your memory for a trigger to take place. For instance, the smell of cloves takes me back to a Christmas centrepiece of my childhood. Whenever I catch the scent of cloves, I’m taken back to memories of that time. I feel much excitement, love and I can feel all the family around me … but my stomach is churning from sneaking too many chocolates from my selection box and I’m not sure if I can eat anything from the loaded festive table. You link the new scent to a person, a moment or an event.
Take a moment to think about the emotions you associate with different scents. If lavender reminds you of spending time in your grandparents garden (a happy memory of family times) but when you think of them you feel sadness which also triggers other memories of loss, lavender is not a scent you want to be using for lifting your mood despite the fact you’ve read everywhere that lavender is calming and relaxing. If you have negative associations, it won’t be for you.
People have different perceptions of the same smell and reactions to scents are rarely neutral. Which is why it is important you know the scents that are triggers for you. You don’t need to know the specific memory associated with a scent (it may have been a childhood memory that has been forgotten) but you do need to know what works for you.
The scents that trigger joyful and happy memories will have a physical effect because your heartbeat will slow down. You will feel calm and relaxed giving you space to step away from those decisions you have to make and those responsibilities you can’t stop thinking about … and as a bonus you get to experience that feeling of happiness associated with your personal memory. Win, win!
What if you don’t know your personal triggers?
Spend some time experimenting! A great way to do this is to attend a candle party (and you can have fun too!). Yankee Candle often have offers available online so it’s worth checking to see what’s reduced. An inexpensive way of experimenting is to get your scent on when you’re doing your food shop … supermarkets often have shelves of candles and you’ll see others having a sniff before buying so you won’t be alone.
Try reed diffusers too. And of course there are aromatherapy oils. First though, find out what works for you before investing in lots of products. Think about the scents in the everyday items you use … shampoo, bathing products, perfume, cut flowers and how they make you feel. Be mindful of scents around you throughout your day and notice how they contribute to your mood. Make choices that will work for you and add to your personal mood enhancing kit.
I’ve created a free simple chart for you to record scents and your emotional reactions and the design complements the Gratitude Challenge free download.
If you suffer from problems with your respiratory system it’s not recommended that you use scents in your mood enhancing kit. However, you can use non-scented candle flames for meditation. Watch out for my article coming soon.
Although this an article with the focus of enhancing your mood it would be remiss of me if I didn’t share the following.
Research has shown that loss of olfactory function can be an indicator of something far more serious. Smell loss occurs with both Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimers, and studies have indicated that a diminishing sense of smell can be an early sign of the onset of both conditions, occurring several years before motor skill problems develop.