Aromas and emotions

Do you ever find yourself transported back to a memory from years ago? It’s so vivid you can re-experience the emotions and almost feel as though you are there?

Have you ever wondered why, when you smell citrus aromas, you think of cleanliness and energy? Or why coconut smells and suntan lotion can make you think of holidays and trigger an excited, carefree emotion. Well, there’s a reason for that…

It’s all down to the fact that our sense of smell is unique in that it is the only one that goes straight to our brain without entering the nervous system first. This is significant because it enters our Limbic System which is the area of the brain that governs our behavioural and emotional responses. The amygdala is a part of this system that is key in the retrieval of emotional memories. So when a scent enters the limbic system the amygdala trawls through its memory bank to match a memory to the aroma. If this is a positive memory then, happiness is likely to be experienced but if it matches with a stressful moment then anxiety is likely to ensue.

This is both fascinating and significant because it suggests that aromas can trigger different emotions for each individual. Indeed, in my experience as an aromatherapist, lavender is a scent that can provide different emotions. Some people love the smell and associate it with relaxation and calmness. However, other clients associate it with old age. This may be that as a youngster these people visited an elderly relative who wore lavender water: perhaps triggering emotions of nostalgia for the relative who is no longer with us and suggesting an element of fear at the associations with old age and all its implications.

Therefore, as this is a subconscious response can we use use aromas to create happy and relaxed emotions? I think so.

We could select an aroma we respond positively to and use it when we are doing relaxing self-care activities. We may light a floral candle whilst having a relaxing bath and then rub in a floral scented moisturiser afterwards. This will create a positive experience where we feel calm, relaxed and happy. Therefore, when we might be feeling unsettled and anxious we could use the floral aroma and the amygdala will subconsciously match the scent and release relaxing and calming emotions. This will help alleviate the anxiousness being experienced.

Light, energetic aromas such as peppermint and lemon could be used whilst you are focused and concentrating. Then if you are feeling distracted but need to get on with something using this aroma could help increase productivity.

How could you use this knowledge to make your home a comforting and relaxing place, a safe haven for you? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please comment in the comments section.

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