Sniff, Smell, and Smile
Feeling down and out? Scents are an easy perk-me-up. Find out which ones make you tick in the right direction
The key to happiness and better moods might be right under your nose – as it turns out, your sense of smell is the most powerful of the five senses. The limbic centre (the part of the brain that controls emotions) is connected to the olfactory system, causing a flood of warm, fuzzy feelings with a simple sniff. This connection enables different scents to evoke certain memories or emotions, and can do amazing things for your mind and body.
So just how powerful is your sense of smell? Well if you’re in need of a perk-me-up, try sniffing something minty or chew on a mint – peppermint stimulates the part of the brain that controls wakefulness. A study done on athletes who smell peppermint, has even shown that it contributes to better breathing and improved athletic performance.
On the contrary, if you’re battling insomnia, try using lavender as a sleep aid. Well-documented for its calming effects, the compounds in lavender have a mildly sedative effect on the limbic centre, and can help to ease feelings of stress or anxiety.
From mood-lifting to headache relief, here are five scents that do more than just smell nice (they also benefit your wellbeing in different ways):
Flowers aren’t just great for beautifying rooms, they also provide scents which have the ability to manipulate your mood. A quick whiff of a flowery scent is sufficient to help you feel happier, say researchers. Jeannette Haviland-Jones, a Rutgers University researcher in New Jersey explains, “Floral odours promote social interaction, and a ‘social approach’ kind of behaviour.” If fresh flowers are not available, just spray on a floral fragrance and you’ll be on your way to smelling (and feeling) good.
Feeling anxious and out of balance? Try sniffing something citrusy. In an Austrian study, participants who were exposed to the smell of oranges felt less anxious, and more positive, than those who were not. Studies have shown that the smell of vitamin C-packed fruits can revitalise your senses and cure chronic fatigue, so not only is this citrus fruit good for your body, it also promotes mental health. Chances are, you’ll not likely want to carry an orange around with you all day though, so have an orange-scented essential oil handy on your work desk for those stressful days!
You probably didn’t see this one coming, but researchers say the inviting smell of freshly baked bread can stimulate you to be more giving… According to results from a French study published in the Journal of Social Psychology, the aroma of freshly-baked bread induced participants who stood outside a bakery to be more helpful to strangers than those who did not. Who knew you could smell your way to kindness?
Ancient Egyptians valued cinnamon above gold and for good reason – this sweet-smelling spice has many medicinal properties and is excellent for brain health. Researchers from Wheeling Jesuit University studied the scent-behaviour link between odours and human behaviour, and reported that participants who smelled cinnamon before embarking on memory tasks, demonstrated improved cognitive functions such as faster visual-motor response, sharpened focus, and a longer attention span. So keep some cinnamon sticks around on standby (just leave a bunch of them in a glass bowl on your desk to keep your work space smelling nice) and take a whiff anytime you need an instant brain power boost.
The heart-healthy benefits of this Mediterranean diet staple are long touted, but research out of the German Research Centre for Food Chemistry has also found that olive oil is more likely to keep you feeling full and satisfied after a meal (compared to other oils and fats). In fact, its scent alone, was sufficient to induce feelings of satiety in participants, thus lowering the total number of calories they consumed. So the next time you feel peckish, sniff some olive oil to help curb those cravings and keep them at bay.