Scent Positively Effects Mood and Performance

Psychologists have been working to understand the link between scents and productivity & here’s what we’ve learned.

“Scents can have positive effects on mood, stress reduction, sleep enhancement, self-confidence, and physical and cognitive performance,” says Theresa Molnar, executive director of the Sense of Smell Institute, the research and educational arm of the perfume industry’s Fragrance Foundation.

Connection Between Pleasant Scents and Productivity, Emotional Well-Being

Scents like balsam & cinnamon don’t just smell nice, they make us feel better. The reason for this may not be exactly what you think. Our positive reaction to scents we enjoy begins with our first experiences of those scents. Our association with nice scents makes us happy. For example, the smell of balsam may bring back happy memories of the holidays and time spent with friends and family. Rachel S. Merz, a psychologist a Brown University, says that in order for an odor to elicit any sort of response in you, you have to first learn to associate it with some event. She gives an example of infants experiencing cuddling from their mother in conjunction with incidental odors like perfume. The infants have shown that those incidental scents then become better liked.

Scent and the Brain

The connection between scent and productivity lies in our brains. Our sense of smell is processed in the most primitive part of the brain. When we smell something, it is processed in the amygdala, which is the emotional center of our brain.

Scent Makes Us More Productive

Herz’s research suggests that your ability to recall information may be improved by inhaling an odor you breathed while absorbing information—so fire up a stick of incense while studying, then bring a vial of that aroma’s essential oil to a big test.

Try These Scents Increase Productivity

Linda Andrews, a psychologist & writer for Psychology Today, recommends using the following scents to improve productivity. Scents affect everyone differently, but these aromas are beneficial to all of us.

Peppermint energizes. “Peppermint scent increases activity in the brain area that wakes us up in the morning ,” says Bryan Raudenbush, a psychologist at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia. His research has shown that exercisers run faster and do more push-ups when exposed to the scent. Try a few drops of peppermint oil on a wristband.

Jasmine promotes restfulness. “Our research has shown that the scent of jasmine in your bedroom leads to a more restful night of sleep and a greater level of alertness the following day,” Raudenbush says. Other labs have found that the scent increases the brain waves associated with deep sleep. Put some jasmine oil in a bedside aroma diffuser or sprinkle a few drops on your pillow.

Lavender relaxes. Exposure to lavender scent can decrease heart rate. Use the scent for unwinding at bedtime, suggests Avery Gilbert, a sensory psychologist in Montclair, New Jersey. Or take several whiffs to recharge yourself during work breaks. Japanese researchers find that the practice helps prevent an afternoon slump in concentration.

Vanilla promotes weight loss. Herz finds that it works as a replacement for the pleasure that you would get from eating sweets—but without the calories. “This is not a scent you would use if you had an empty stomach, because it’s likely to just make you hungrier,” she says. But if you’ve had a healthy lunch, it can help curb the craving for a candy bar afterward.

 

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