After a bad day of work or an unfortunate argument, people often turn to comfort foods, hobbies, friends, or even social media for a pick-me-up. However, most people overlook one of their most basic senses — this article will explain how scents can improve your mood as well.
How Scents Affect The Brain
Most people have heard of aromatherapy, but perhaps many don’t understand what it is, how it works, or the powerful benefits it can have on their mood. Think, for example, of a pleasant smell — perhaps thinking of a warm batch of cookies or an open campfire brings back memories of childhood, of baking with relatives on the holidays, or of going camping with friends.
This is because strong scents stimulate the brain’s limbic system, otherwise known as the area of the brain most closely associated with memories and emotions. Hormones like serotonin and dopamine are transported by the limbic system to other areas of the brain and ultimately result in feelings of happiness, peace, or renewed energy when felt by the rest of the body.
But carrying around a fresh batch of cookies wouldn’t be very convenient, would it?
Aromatherapy With Candles
Luckily, there is a candle available in just about every scent you can imagine! Although a scented candle may not be enough to fix a bad day on its own, there are various pleasant and widely available fragrances that can help soothe the resulting emotions of that day. For example, earthy smells like lavender, chamomile, or sandalwood are said to help with anxiety. Emotional or mental fatigue can be eased by strong natural scents such as cinnamon bark, eucalyptus, or cardamom. Citrus smells are associated with general stress relief, but can also disrupt feelings of tension or nervousness.
Other recognized benefits of scented candles include reduced emotional stress, increased cognitive and physical performance, a grounding effect against strong negative emotions, and a small self-esteem boost. This is all thanks to the aforementioned neurological effects that fragrances have on the human brain, and how the chemicals released by the limbic system can be used to influence moods. While it’s not recommended to sleep with a lit candle, there are even studies to suggest that burning a scented candle before bed can enhance sleep quality.
According to the National Candle Association, there are even scents that can help with feelings of loneliness! Benzoin and marjoram are what is recommended to help temporarily distract the mind from feelings of isolation.
Picking Your Scents
Another option, of course, is simply to pick the scents most closely associated with fond memories or favorite treats. As mentioned previously, certain scents are more attractive to certain people based on their associated memories — one person may not view the scent of fresh linen as fondly as another. A person who’s allergic to pine trees likely wouldn’t enjoy a candle scented like pine needles. But for the person who loves the smell of peppermint, a scented candle and a room filled with the smell of peppermint will surely create a relaxing environment.