Perhaps our most under-rated sense is our sense of smell. On an everyday basis, a wide variety of smells waft our way; some pleasant or even enjoyable, others not so much. Perhaps, you may not notice too much, or maybe you are extremely sensitive and can detect a particular smell from a mile away. I, for example, can detect smoke much before anyone else can. I just hate the smell of smoke that much. So does smell affect your health, wellbeing and state of mind?
Surprisingly, our sense of smell does seem to affect our mood, behaviour and even level of stress and anxiety. Our response to smell is an acquired skill. In short, if a scent and a pleasant experience went hand in hand in the past, you will associate that smell with a pleasant experience going forward. If you spent a fair amount of time in the past few days in the hospital and the experience was not that positive, you would associate the smell of the hospital with a bad experience. Many studies across multiple cultures have shown the same stimulus-response. So much so that even our likes and dislikes of food are related to the odour of the food (hint for parents with young kids, make the food smell good).
So how can we use this to our benefit? Several essential oils are known to help. Lavender oil is known to be calming and relaxing. You can even use the lavender plant in your room. Rose oil helps relieve anxiety and depression including panic attacks. Chamomile reduces irritability and anxiety. Ylang Ylang has an uplifting effect; when combined with lavender it increases your cortisol levels reducing psychological stress.
Building these smells into your everyday life, especially associating them with pleasant experiences is beneficial. The next time you feel stressed, you might just want to pull out the smelling salts instead of visiting the shrink.