Aromatherapy has been shown to have a powerful impact on your mood. Of all the senses, smell is the one that can penetrate the brain and alter the neurochemistry within a few seconds! This makes inhaling certain scents one of the easiest ways to reduce stress.
The Brain-Nose Connection
The sense of smell is directly connected to the limbic system, which is the most primitive part of the brain. This section of the brain controls stress levels, blood pressure, pulse and breathing. This is also the part of the brain from where emotions stem. So when you inhale a certain fragrance, it can affect you physically by making your breathing speed up or lower your pulse. It also affects you mentally, since an emotion becomes associated with the scent.
Throughout your lifetime you will smell millions of different scents and odors. Most will only linger in the conscious mind for a moment such as the good scent of baking bread; or the unpleasant odor of garbage. However, certain scents have shown to have an immediate effect on the brain, but they last longer, and can help to boost mood.
According to Dr. Alan R. Hirsch of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, “The quickest way to change a mood state—quicker than with any other sensual modality—is with smell.”
So if you are looking for ways to reduce stress, inhaling certain fragrances could be a quick and easy way to pull you out of a funk and energize your brain and body.
The Mood Boosting Trio
So which scents are the most effective for stress reduction? Citrus is the answer!
According to researchers at the UK’s Northumbrian University, exposure to lemon balm can improve cognitive function and improve one’s mood. Study participants reported the lemon scent “sends you to a happy place,” which is advice often given to people in stressful situations. Inhaling a mild lemon fragrance could be a first class ticket to your “happy place.”
It sounds vaguely exotic, but this smaller cousin to the orange with darker flesh emits a mood-boosting fragrance that can help you to relax and simultaneously can invigorate you.
While similar in health benefits, it’s helpful to know that mandarin oranges originated in China. Tangerines originated in Morocco and were exported through the port of Tangiers where they got their name. They are often thought to be the same fruit.
Researchers at Japan’s Mei University noted that patients who inhaled an orange fragrance were able to significantly reduce the amount of anti-depressants they took. Upon further testing, those patients who were inhaling the scent of orange regularly saw improvements to their endocrine and immune systems.
The scent of orange not only seems to produce feelings of calm, but also promotes confidence, something that can help relieve stress in situations where you are facing the unknown. Feeling like you can “handle it” will definitely have a calming effect on you as the scent of orange penetrates the brain and helps keep your heart rate down and your breathing even.
The Nose Knows
When you’re in a stressful situation or feeling down, and you can’t meditate or go for a calming quick walk, inhaling the fragrance of lemon, tangerine or orange can produce an immediate brain boost, making it one of the easiest ways to reduce stress in an instant.
Your nose is a powerful link to the brain, so keep a few citrusy essential oils handy to keep calm and carry on!