The Scents You Smell Might Be Affecting Your Moods
Have you ever walked through the perfume section of a fancy department store only to have your eyes watering as you make your way toward the exit? If so, does such an experience make you cranky? That’s the case for a lot of people who don’t appreciate being bombarded with a cornucopia of strong perfumes.
What you are experiencing in such a scenario is common. What we smell is capable of affecting or moods. What many people don’t know is why. It turns out there are two things in play: how the brain responds to certain volatile compounds and the memories associated with different odors.
Essential Oils and Aromatherapy
Essential oils are marketed as products for better health. For example, lavender is marketed as an essential oil that can relieve anxiety and help a person sleep better. These sorts of benefits are achieved by diffusing lavender oil into the air. As the air is breathed in, the volatile compounds in the lavender oil cause the olfactory system to send certain signals to the brain.
According to the National Institutes of Health, numerous studies have shown that lavender oil can be useful for treating certain neurological disorders. The data suggests lavender oil’s volatile compounds can stabilize mood, create a sedative effect, and more.
All of this is explained to say that smelling essential oils can have an effect on a person’s mood. If lavender oil does truly produce a calming effect in the brain, that would explain why it seems to work as a sleep aid and an anxiety fighter. The oil causes the olfactory system to send certain signals to the brain which, in turn, encourage the brain to act in a more calm and relaxed way.
To the delight of aromatherapy proponents, mounting evidence seems to point to the efficacy of essential oils and aromatherapy for medical applications. But some embrace aromatherapy simply because they like the smell essential oils produce. These are people who will buy something like the Zephyr Fresh whole-home diffuser as a replacement for single-room air fresheners.
Essential oils appear to have the capability of affecting mood by actually encouraging certain reactions in the brain. But that’s only half the equation. Sometimes a particular smell affects a person’s mood because it is associated with some sort of past experience.
For example, you might think that fresh apple pie is one of the best smells in the world. Perhaps you might remember hanging around the kitchen as a child while your mother baked apple pies. The pleasant memories associated with apple pie induce positive feelings in you whenever you smell that fruity scent you know and love.
According to Scientific American, it is not necessary to consciously recognize positive memories for a certain smell to induce good feelings. The mere fact that your brain associates a particular smell with a positive experience can be enough to subconsciously trigger a better mood. The other side of that coin are bad experiences from the past.
Smells associated with bad experiences can put you in a bad mood. Remember the department store example this post started with? The first time you had that experience, your nose being hit with so many perfumes might have caused a severe headache. Years later, the same smells put you in a bad mood.
The fact is that the scents we are exposed to can and do affect our moods. Whether a scent is associated with a memory or triggers an actual response in the brain, the effect is very real.