Do you ever stop and just breathe in deeply and take in the aroma of freshly mowed grass, bread baking or the dampness after the rain? I love smells, so much that I’m actually a qualified Aromatherapist. So why is it smell can make you feel so happy? How does our own smell affect others? Can smell be used in healing? Keep reading friends!
Smell And The Brain
Smell is a part of the olfactory bulb, which is closely linked to parts of the brain which are involved in memory and emotion. It’s one of those subtle reasons you will feel emotions, sometimes without consciously being aware of why.
There are actually studies done which talk about different aromas we emit from our sweat (particularly the armpits) when we are feeling different emotions. They had people watch different movies which elicited different emotions, collected the sweat and had others smell that sweat to see how that made them feel (read more about this study here).
The same article also talks about some suggestion that the smells around us when we sleep impact our dreams and may be linked to why we love fresh sheets so much (I dunno I just think they feel great lol).
It’s one of those missing links as to why we influence the people around us, and why you should pick your friends wisely (Click Here to Read: How the People We Choose Affect Our Success).
Important Notes About Aromatherapy And Rip Offs!
Before I start, one VERY IMPORTANT note is that there is a big difference between therapeutically active essential oils, fragrances and cheap s*** from the cheapo shops.
Fragrances can make you happy, with some evidence of vanilla fragrance being the most effective at this. Personally, I love the shop Dusk (sells candles etc) even though I don’t think their essential oils are therapeutically active. When I burn my candles I feel relaxed, so I believe fragrances are still good, though not as powerful as proper essential oils.
What you need to look out for are the cheap and nasty products. Most likely they have been extracted using chemicals and adulterated (watered down) using chemicals. People sometimes tell me they are allergic to lavender (which is the safest of all of the essential oils) and this is definitely possible, but I still wonder if they haven’t had a reaction to an adulterated substance rather than the oil itself. Be careful!
A therapeutically active essential oil is the good stuff. It’s pure, though there are several different grades. The two places I recommend to people in Australia (though there are many others) are New Directions and Essential Therapeutics. If in doubt, ask your local Aromatherapist or Naturopath who they go through – buy where the professionals buy!
Essential Oils And How They Impact Your Mood
When you are looking at essential oils for their impact on mood, reading into the mythology of the plants themselves can be helpful. Ones like Frankincense and Myrrh have their reputations and have been known to be used in Ancient Egypt.
I’m not going to go through all of the essential oils and their impacts, there are a kazillion websites that already do that (click here for a good one).
But here is a few tips from what I’ve learnt from experience:
- Citrus are pretty but they will burn out very quickly as they are a top note oil (light and crisp as opposed to the thicker oils made from sap). They are great if you open your house up and want some freshness.
- Men tend to like more of your woods, herbs and spices rather than florals.
- Florals are pretty but expensive, so that’s where I go with the fragrances as I’m not trying to cure a cold or anything. Rose is good for self-love, but again, that’s the therapeutically active version that costs like $60 for 2ml.
- If you feel like you need strength, look for an essential oil made from tree bark like cedarwood, cypress or sandalwood. Some of the weird smelling woodsy ones can soothe you in the middle of the chest which is where you seem to get that emotional ache from. I’ve used these to help me get through hard times. You won’t feel like citrus – it’s like being depressed and having a happy-go-lucky friend bouncing around you that you want to comically hit over the head with a frying pan.
- If you need to study, I use Peppermint, Eucalyptus and Lime to clear my head and help me focus.
Other than that I use essential oils mostly integrated with Remedial Massage for circulation benefits usually, not the smell. This has to be directly on the skin (in a carrier) if you want benefits past the lungs and mind.
The Obvious Downside Of Smell And Emotions
So obviously good smells trigger good memories, and bad smell triggers bad memories. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is the most extreme version of this – where a person will smell something and it will elicit a painful memory.
Actually, back when I was on the dating scene I was slightly repulsed by men who wore my ex’s deodorant or certain scents that reminding me of crappy guys I’d met before. I always tried to keep a clear head, but it was there. This is why I waited until I found someone before I bought a perfume. Who wants to remind someone of their ex?
Smell is one of those wonderful things that gets overlooked. It can bring you so much incredible happiness if you stop and really appreciate what is happening around you. Childhood memories can really bring a deep sense of satisfaction.
The old saying “Take time to stop and smell the roses” really does have some incredible wisdom in it.
So tell me, what smells do you absolutely love and what memories do they come from? Let me know in the comments!