I’ve written a lot on my blog before about the science of color and how it affects your mood and productivity. And today I wanted to talk about the equal power that scent has, whether it’s in your home, in your skincare products, or even on your body. There are certain colors that are known to alter your feelings (green is relaxing while red is stimulating), and the same goes for smells. Scent is shown to affect our mood and behavior – though interestingly, it works in different ways for different individuals.
Scientifically speaking, the olfactory nerve is what transmits impulses to the brain from the smell receptors in the nose. Because the olfactory nerve is directly linked to the area of the brain that accesses memory recall, mood, and emotions – scent is then very closely tied to memory. Because of this, what smells good to you may not necessarily smell good to another person. We all have different scents that evoke happy memories, and we all have scents we don’t like. While certain scents might have a mostly universal effect (i.e. rotting food or trash, ew!), our preferences are largely very personal. For instance, I love perfumes that are on the deeper, muskier side. I don’t necessarily love rosey, powdery, or sweet-smelling perfumes. But with the prevalence of those types of scents on the market, it’s clear that many people do! It doesn’t make certain perfumes better or worse than others – it’s simply just a matter of personal preference.
Scent also plays a huge part in attraction and this has been the case for centuries. Musk, a scent which was originally taken from a gland in the musk deer and used as a fixative (bizarre!) was also found to act like a pheromone and is now used in scent to personalize a fragrance. Pheromones are as unique to individuals as our fingerprints. Acting like hormones on our skin, they are what makes us attractive (or not!) to certain receiving individuals. A scent that incorporates musk works with the body’s natural scent and so smells different on each person. My current favorite is from Narciso Rodriguez who uses musk as heart notes (the middle ones) in all of his perfumes.
So how can we use scents to improve our mood? The science suggests that when we’re surrounded by smells we like, we experience a boost in mood and creative thinking. So if you’re having a particularly difficult or stressful day, a whiff of your favorite perfume, candle, or incense can give you an instant pick-me-up. Personally, when I have a packed work day and am stuck at my laptop for hours, I love to have a candle burning at my desk (lately I’m loving this one from Skylar, which makes toxin-free home scents). I really feel the effects! Additionally, certain smells are wonderful to facilitate relaxation – like a spritz of lavender aromatherapy spray on your pillow before bed, or a couple drops of eucalyptus essential oil in the bath.
The same goes for beauty and skincare products. Since these live on our bodies throughout the day (or night), they should smell good to us too. Always pack your favorite smelling hand lotion and lip balm in your purse, and choose an oil or moisturizer that smells amazing to use right before bed (personally, I love this one by Elemis – it’s one of the best smelling oils I’ve ever used!)
If you have a scent that perks you up or evokes happy memories, make an effort to surround yourself with it at work, at home, even in your car. If you need some ideas, shop some of my personal favorites to experiment with, below.