What’s In a Smell? How Scents Affect Your Mood

scent_blog_blankFamously, Proust bit into a madeleine cookie and catapulted back into childhood memories. But when it comes to memories and mood, it’s smell — not taste, or any of the other senses — that’s most evocative and likely to provoke a trip down memory lane.

Change Your Mood With Fragrance

But why does fragrance have such an impact? As it turns out, the answer lies deep in our brains: The limbic center, or the area of the brain that processes emotions, is tied to the brain’s olfactory bulbs, which process smells. This close connection in the brain helps make the relationship between smells and moods, scents and memories, quite strong. When it comes to Madeleines, the warm scent of vanilla and baking cookies is more likely than taste to provoke a memory.

And it’s not just smell that triggers memory — just the thought of a pleasant fragrance can improve moods. But as the Social Issues Research Centre finds, “…the actual smell can have dramatic effects in improving our mood and sense of well-being.” Pleasant smells even heighten our perception of people’s attractiveness, and a product’s effectiveness.

The impact of smell on how a person feels is strong; as Theresa Molnar, the executive director of the Smell of Sense Institute, comments, “Scents can have positive effects on mood, stress reduction, sleep enhancement, self-confidence, and physical and cognitive performance.”

Fragrance-Power Mood Menders

Once you’ve recognized this ability of fragrance to alter mood and performance, the next step is figuring our which scent to use, and when. Common recommendations for getting energy, subdue anxiety, and help bring on the drowsies are below.

To Sleep and Rest:

In studies, lavender has been proven to increase drowsiness, and help bring on sleep and relaxation amongst people exposed to the scent. One study providing lavender-scented items to fifty women attending college concluded, “…lavender fragrance had a beneficial effect on insomnia.”

Anti-Stress and Pro-Joy:

Bring on the lemon, orange, and other citrus to help curb anxiety — as well as being mood-brighteners, these scents help quell stress and tension. Barbara Thomley, lead coordinator for the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at the Mayo Clinic, says, “With any citrus smell, lessened anxiety always seems to emerge as a benefit.”

And a study done in 2008 found “robust evidence that lemon oil reliably enhances positive mood compared to water and lavender regardless of expectancies or previous use of aromatherapy.”

Increase Energy:

Research from Wheeling Jesuit University finds that peppermint “reduce perceived physical workload, temporal workload, effort and frustration in athletes.” Participants also reported having higher energy, and less fatigue, with the use of peppermint. Studies also find that rosemary is a sure-fire way to increase alertness.

How do you get your mood on with scent? Share with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest using hashtags #mood and #scent. Be sure to also check out our new mood boosting products based on this very research at www.shop.themoodfactory.com.

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