As with mindfulness, meditation and breathwork, essential oils are great to try when feeling anxious, restless or down. Why? Scents bypass our brain and directly trigger memory and behaviour responses in us. Our sense of smell is the only sense that acts this way, all other senses are interpreted first by the brain.
A recent study shows that smell catalyzes up to 75% of our daily mood. That means we can deliberately use smells that are linked to positive personal memories to boost our mood.
Remember the scene from the movie Ratatouille, when one bite takes food critic antagonist Anton Ego right back to a special memory of childhood? Ever walked into an open house, where the realtor has cookies baking in the oven? These are examples of using scents to affect our mood, mental state and behaviour. We can take control and deliberately use scents to optimize our mental and emotional state. For times when damp earth, or granny’s sweater or cookies in the oven aren’t readily available, essential oils can be effective too.
Essential oils are concentrated extracts derived from plants. Manufacturers extract these oils through technical processes that remove the oil from large volumes of the plant. Essential oils are most commonly used in the practice of aromatherapy. The most popular ways to use essential oil for aromatherapy are:
- Apply pure oil into an individual carrier: Aromatherapy accessories, such as bracelets, are a great way to provide scent throughout the day, while keeping the scent relatively contained to the person wearing it. A bath and fabrics are also great carriers.
- Apply diluted oil to the skin: You can use diluted essential oil on your skin. Ensure you dilute it with a carrier oil like coconut, almond, or avocado oil.
- Diffuse oil into the air: You can use a room diffuser to spread scent around a room. Scents affect people differently, and children are especially responsive to smells. For instance, peppermint is a top scent for many yet also can agitate young children. Please consider others in the space before diffusing.
Five popular essential oils are peppermint, a mixture of sweet orange and spearmint, a mixture of spearmint and rosemary, rosemary, and lemon. Lavender is one of the most popular scents for relaxation, sleep hygiene and stress relief, having been used for over 2,500 years.
Essential oils are used during labour; lavender, chamomile, mandarin, clary sage, ginger, frankincense, eucalyptus, jasmine, lemon, and peppermint. In one labour study, frankincense was rated most highly for pain relief, followed by lavender. Rose and lavender were rated most highly for anxiety reduction. It is still early days for having clinical evidence of the healing impact of essential oils.
We can all tap into our sense of smell to boost our mood and energy level. Identify scents that are linked to positive memories for you and have fun bringing them into your day!