About to sink your teeth into a ripe, juicy strawberry? WAIT! Smell it first! Take in a nice deep breath. Why? Because scent may be the most underestimated of the five senses when it comes to boosting your health and happiness.
Some serious scientists have found that certain smells can make you happy, reduce stress, improve memory, and energize. Naturally, when we think of wellness, we concentrate on the bigger picture, committing to fitness classes and clean eating plans, but bringing your sense of smell on board can add a whole other tool to your mental health toolbox. Plus, it requires less effort than a primed down-dog to sneak these in at any time.
To make it as easy as pie (also a mood enhancer, but that’s another story), here’s a brief breakdown of your day, with suggestions on how and when to build in these wellness scents – without having to buy an arsenal of essential oils.
Morning: Beat Sleepyhead Syndrome
Citrus for Breakfast – A good stretch and a green smoothie bowl are not the only ways to make sure you’re set for a happy, productive day – many lovely scents have been studied and found to promote energy and wakefulness. For an early-morning boost, get your hands on anything citrus. Sniff that grapefruit peel, squeeze some lemon into your first glass of water, or get some tangerine oil to add to your morning face wash.
Happy Shower Hack – Eucalyptus, an anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and antimicrobial superhero has been shown to stimulate the immune system and help with feeling more alert. Stop by your local florist and pick up some fresh eucalyptus stems. Then tie a few to your showerhead – the steam will release the sweet, woody aroma, which may not make 6 am starts less torturous, but at least you’ll be awake enough to get yourself out the door, on time!
Midday: Attention and Focus
Spice it Up at the Office – Just a few hours into your work day and brain fog starts to creep in. Well, the smell of cinnamon may conjure up cozy winter days by the fire, but this study showed that it could also improve memory and attention span. Your colleagues may think you’re a little quirky, but keep a cinnamon stick in your pen jar, and go for a little scratch-n-sniff when you’ve got to focus.
Another booster for cognitive functioning is peppermint – also a fatigue fighter – which is the perfect excuse to brew up an invigorating mint tea (don’t forget to inhale that beautiful scent before each sip). Peppermint gum, lip balm, or hand cream could also get the job done. Mint choc-chip ice cream… not as effective!
Afternoon: Post-Lunch Pick-Me-Up
Rosemary Plant-powered – We’ve all experienced the post-lunch slump, but next time you’re tempted to hit the coffee machine (again), consider this: rosemary has been found to fight fatigue, and even help alleviate headaches. If you’re near a window, you can cultivate a small rosemary plant right on your desk, then give the leaves a gentle squeeze and breathe deeply when you feel like 5 pm can’t come quickly enough.
Late afternoon is also the most dangerous time of day concerning overwhelming cupcake cravings, but some research has shown that the scent of apples – even just sniffing the skin – helps manage cravings (we also recommend you eat the apple too, it’s a pretty stellar snack).
Evening: Relax and Restore
Lavender Everywhere – One of the most familiar scents when it comes to mood, lavender has been shown to decrease heart rate and promote relaxation and sleep. If you’re not up for essential oil in a bath, you can find lavender pillow spray, put a fresh lavender plant by your bed, or place a sachet of dried lavender in the drawer next to your pyjamas. However, if you’re not a fan of lavender, try her calming cousin, Jasmine, which research shows can also soothe, relieve anxiety, and promote sleep (similar to the effects of valium, according to the researchers). Try a jasmine candle in the bedroom, just don’t forget to blow it out before you tuck yourself in.
Vanilla Dreams – Finally, and one that won’t come as a surprise, vanilla has been associated with joy and relaxation (could that be because it’s linked in our brains with delicious baked goods?!). As part of your nighttime routine, how about a cup of warm milk (almond or soy works too) with a scraping of vanilla beans or a dash of vanilla extract. Sniff, sip, and start counting sheep.