Showing posts with label Smells. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Smells. Show all posts

Thursday, August 23, 2012

It's Scent-sational!

Rainswept streets, an orange grove, holiday cookies, and soft meadows.  Each of these phrases brings a picture to mind, perhaps a memory from the past and a smell?  Yes, that's right, there are scents associated with most of our experiences.  Who doesn't love a new car smell?  Or the comforting feeling we get from the scents of dinner cooking and dessert baking in the oven? Whether it's the smell itself or the memories they recall, certain scents affect our emotions.

After purchasing our new car a short time ago, my mom said that she always feels happy when she goes for a ride because she loves the new car smell.  Happy?  Can a smell actually affect our mood?  I'll admit, I feel happy when I smell the new car too, but I didn't know why.  Well, according to Alan Hirsch, M.D., director of the The Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, scent and mood are related.

mood smell scents
Favorite scents can alter our moods.
“Tapping into your sense of smell is one of the quickest ways to change your perspective or even your behavior," says Dr. Hirsch.  This is because the limbic system, the part our brain that controls emotion, is connected to the olfactory system.  Researchers at The Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation conducted studies showing that certain odors affect our perception of time, making a wait seem longer or shorter.  Coffee scent made the wait seem shorter while baby powder scent made it seem longer.  So is it a chemical reaction to a smell that can make us happy or even reduce anxiety?  Or does the smell remind us of a past experience where we were happy and more relaxed?

Rachel S. Herz, assistant professor of psychology at Brown University, says that it is the experiences associated with odors that affect our moods.  Odors do not act as drugs that cause us to feel happy or less anxious.  They merely bring up memories of an experience where we felt these emotions.  We must first associate the odor with an experience, then we can recall it when we smell a certain scent at a later time.

Take Me To My Happy Place

Whether it's chemical or psychological, I just want to get to my happy place fast and enjoy it!  So what scents do most people associate with their happy place?  For mom and me it's fresh baked cookies or bread, cinnamon apple, and of course, new car smell!

scent and mood
Scents recall memories that affect mood.
Anyone from the Philadelphia area remembers fondly the smell of Nabisco as they drove by the factory.  For me it brought to mind driving to Phillie's games in the summer, the anticipation of America's favorite sport and the anticipation of maybe eating some Oreos later!  For some it's the smell of fresh cut grass or flowers, although for some that brings on allergies and a not so happy feeling.

What are some recommended scents that can make us feel happy and less anxious and how can we get more of them?

Ooh, Ooh That Smell

  • Flowers        Floral scents increase association with happy emotions.
  • Citrus           Citrus scents can create a happy mood.
  • Peppermint   Increases alertness and lifts mood.
  • Lavender     Soothes anxiety, increases relaxation and reduces pain.

Brew a cup of peppermint tea or bake some cookies.  Add lavender fragrance oils to your next relaxing hot bath.  Citrus-scented candles, shower gels, perfume scents and room fresheners are a great way to get this mood enhancer into your house.  Fresh flowers and potted plants bring these fresh floral scents into our lives.  Use floral-scented potpourri during the winter months.  Mom and I were very happy to find that there is even new car smell air freshener!  We've stocked up on that because you know that smell only lasts for the first month.

Caroline Carr
Contributing Writer