Lift your spirits with a spritz? Sure! "Research has shown that certain scents can change your mindset and promote specific behavior," says Pamela Dalton, Ph.D.
Famously, 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 the actual 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.” Yummy 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.”
Once you’ve recognized this ability of fragrance to impact mood and performance, the next step is figuring our which scent to use, and when. Common recommendations for getting energy, reduce anxiety, and help bring on the sleepies are below.
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.”
Bring on the lemon, orange, yuzu and other citrus notes to help curb anxiety — as well as being mood-brighteners, these scents help ease stress and tension. Barbara Thomley, the 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.”
Research from Wheeling Jesuit University finds that mint “reduce perceived physical workload, temporal workload, effort and frustration in athletes.” Participants also reported having higher energy, and less fatigue, with the use of mint. Studies also find that rosemary is a sure-fire way to increase alertness.