Scientifically Proven: Scents Make You Happy

Smell make you happy

Have you ever sprayed your favourite fragrance and instantly felt more positive, or a beautifully scented candle and felt the stresses of the day melt away? Every day, scent plays a part in how we experience the world around us and impacts the way we feel.

Why do smells instantly evoke specific memories or feelings?

Smell is our most sensitive sense and the one most strongly linked to our memory and feelings. Our olfactory bulb, which begins inside the nose and runs along the bottom of the brain, is the first stop for new smells. This bulb is directly linked to two areas of the brain that govern emotion and memory: the amygdala and hippocampus. Scientists believe that our sense of smell triggers memory more than other senses because those senses do not pass through these areas of the brain. Memories that are triggered by our olfactory senses can be accompanied by clear images and feelings of happiness, excitement, agony, and despair.

Do different smells affect your mood?

The way our brain receives and processes odors is complex and much of it still remains to be discovered. But there is no doubt that scent affects our mood. Most people who walk into a room that smells of jasmine, vanilla or lavender, are likely to improve their mood. However, if the room smells of garbage which has not been tossed out for a couple of weeks, most of us will feel quite the opposite.

Indeed, smells can affect both our short and long term moods. Creating an environment with pleasant smells which evoke positive, calm or otherwise good emotions is rather simple and can have a profound impact on our mood. Evidence to that is the increasing use of aroma diffusers created and customized to ensure a good scent in our environment

Why do scents trigger emotion?

Memories are always intertwined with emotions. For example, when you reminisce about a vacation you often remember the joy of freedom. Memories are often associated with automatic emotions. Therefore, when we experience a scent which is stored in our memory, our brain tends to correlate it with certain recollections and the emotions involved with them emerge in tandem. To illustrate, consider a childhood memory that involves the smell of fresh baked cookies. This scent may remind you of afternoons spent with your grandparents many years back, while for someone else it can invoke memories of a very specific bakery, depending on the interaction between the scent and our own unique memories.

How are scents used in everyday life?

Scents are used in everyday life to elicit emotional responses. Take advertising and sales for example. Have you ever noticed a distinctive smell when walking into a store? Scents can be associated with the product, or be used to keep customers around. Research shows that providing a pleasant-smelling environment can lead to increased sales, and many stores employ scent machines for these exact purposes. Have you ever smell Famous Amos cookies in the mall and feel like buying it?

Similarly, scents and aromas can also be used in classroom settings or in the workplace. Studies show that certain smells can influence parts of the brain that are responsible for productivity. School teachers use fragrance diffusers in the classroom, occasionally associated with different subjects, to stimulate brain activity and calm rowdy children. The same can be seen in the workplace. Placing an aroma diffuser in the office can improve employees’ mood and productivity, and contribute to an all-around happier work environment.

How does scent affect the brain?

To understand the connection between scent and emotion, we first need to mention an interesting and crucial region in our brain, called the hippocampus. The hippocampus, part of a network called the limbic system and one of the most studied parts of the brain, is associated with the processes of feelings and reacting. The hippocampus also stores two types of memory: declarative and spatial. The former is related to facts and events and the latter to pathways and routes.

The hippocampus is also where short-term memories turn into long-term memories. Since smell processing is also closely related to the hippocampus, scents and emotions are tightly intertwined. Our sense of smell is constantly taking us somewhere. As we journey in and out of memories and along with them, it invokes a range of emotions that tie to our present situation in either clear or very subtle ways.

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