Scents can have wild effects on our brains. Unlike a lot of our senses, olfactory info is one that can trigger memory and emotion faster than many others. That's why finding the best scents to boost your mood can provide a wide range of emotional benefits.
Aromatherapy focuses on the healing effects some scents can have. And while I definitely feel healed every morning by my first whiff of freshly-brewed coffee, there’s a significant amount of evidence that fragrances like lavender can actually cause physical and psychological improvement, according to the National Library Of Medicine. Lavender oil, for instance, is one of the most well-known and oft-used aromatherapy essentials and it has the power to reduce stress and pain levels.
Essential oils are commonly aerated for inhalation with a diffuser, heated in a warmer, or used by professionals for massages, but you can still get the emotional benefits of some smells by infusing your personal beauty or self-care routine with products that include the world’s most comforting and mood-boosting ingredients.
Whether you’re stressed about the start of another school year or you’re feeling the drag of a long, hot summer spent in the office, I’ve got you covered. If you want easy, sweet-smelling ways to improve your mood, these are some of the best boosting scents to incorporate into your day-to-day now.
I was semi-joking when I said that coffee heals me every morning, but there's science to back up the idea that the smell of coffee — not just the consumption of it — can affect our brain chemistry. A 2008 study from the Journal Of Agricultural And Food Chemistry found that in rats stressed by a lack of sleep, a good nosefull of coffee caused 13 of 17 to produce proteins that protect nerves from the effects of stress.
This coffee lotion bar is jam-packed with coffee beans, and is made with beeswax, coconut oil, mango butter, shea butter, and fragrance oil. It's the perfect way to kick-start your morning (besides a cup of real joe).
Sandalwood has been used in natural medicines for centuries. With its rich, woodsy scent, it can transport anyone to the forest and act as a natural antidepressant. According to HowStuffWorks, sandalwood oil is also used to lower anxiety, can counter inflammation, and is gentle on the skin, which means it can be used to treat rashes, dryness, and acne flare-ups.
This liquid shea oil within this sandalwood product is meant for use on dry skin. Its maker encourages customers to use it on their feet, knees, and elbows, where we tend to foster rough patches of thicker skin that's prone to drying out.
3. Vanilla Mint
Vanilla Mint Lip Balm, $4, Etsy
This product is a twofer since both peppermint and vanilla boast mood-boosting qualities. Livestrong reported that the smell of peppermint not only heightens our ability to concentrate, but has mood-elevating properties that can combat anxiety and depression. Livestrong also noted that the smell of vanilla, when tested at a cancer center in New York, lessened stress and claustrophobia by 63 percent in test patients undergoing MRIs.
This lip balm is specifically blended to moisten dry lips. It is strongly scented with peppermint and vanilla, and also contains cocoa butter, beeswax, sweet almond oil, organic coconut oil, and vitamin E oil.
4. Jasmine Green Tea
Jasmine Green Tea Shampoo Bar, $7, Etsy
Another two-for-one, a 2010 study found that jasmine oil made subjects feel "more alert, more vigorous, and less relaxed," and concluded that jasmine helps relieve depression and has the ability to improve people's moods.
Like peppermint, jasmine stimulates us in a way that can not only make us feel better, but that also make us more productive. As for green tea, it is used in lots of cosmetics for anti-aging, but it is also said to relieve muscle tension, relaxing away the day's worries and stress headaches.
This creamy bar shampoo is made from palm oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter, wheat germ protein, jojoba oil, sunflower oil, castor oil, and, of course, jasmine and green tea fragrances.
Pit Paste, $6, Etsy
For many people, fond winter memories are steeped in the smell of pine. But this scent can do more than act as an agent of nostalgia. A 2007 study sent 498 participants on forest walks, then asked them to rate their moods. Participants reported a decrease in hostility and depression, and a lessening of stress.
This all-natural deodorant is vegan, and made from arrowroot powder, shea butter, essential oils, coconut oil, and baking soda.
6. Freshly Cut Grass
I was that weird kid who loved to mow the grass. Thankfully, science may be able to explain my peculiarity. A neuroscientist at the University Of Queensland produced a freshly-cut grass-scented perfume after seven years of study. Research showed that when grass is freshly cut, it releases a chemical that acts on the amygdala and hippocampus. That chemical can relieve stress and jack up the brain's memory core.
This soap is made with coconut oil, palm oil, safflower oil, glycerin, purified water, sorbitol, sorbitan oleate, soy bean protein, lye, titanium dioxide for color, fragrance, shea butter, turmeric, and calendula. Its lovely hue comes from chlorophyll-crushed walnut.
Rose is a scent that, according to Livestrong, is frequently recommended because it acts as an antidepressant and can boost your mood. Rose oil can also lessen anxiety and stress. As someone with clinical anxiety, I used to carry around a string of beads made from crushed rose petals that would instantly help during anxiety attacks.
This bath bomb is all-natural, vegan, and made from pure essential oils, with a topper of dried rose petals.
Like peppermint, lemon's jazzy scent can improve our ability to concentrate, heighten our energy, and improve our mood. HowStuffWorks reported that aromatherapists use people's link between lemon and cleanliness (thank you to the thousands of lemon-scented cleaning products out there) to help them overcome feelings of imperfection and boost their confidence.
This bright sea salt scrub is made from Dead Sea salt, epsom salt, sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, lemon essential oil, and yellow mica.
9. Lavender Sunscreen
Vegan SPF20 Sunscreen, $12, Etsy
Another buy-one-get-one, lavender is known to increase relaxation and lower anxiety, but Reader's Digest also suggested that the smell of sunscreen might be a mood-booster, too. This is not because of its chemical properties, but because it, like all other smells, passes through the brain's memory core before reaching the thalamus. Memories of warm beach days, celebratory fireworks, barbecues, and margaritas in the sand are certainly happiness-inducing for many of us.
This vegan whipped sunscreen is chemical and preservative-free, and made with zinc oxide.
10. Cinnamon & Vanilla
Cinnamon & Vanilla — Beard Taming Balm for Men, $6, Etsy
Vanilla was paired with peppermint in an earlier product, but here it's showing off its versatility by melding with cinnamon. According to Huffington Post, cinnamon boosts concentration, memory, and attention, much like peppermint and lemon. As per HowStuffWorks, the ingredient can also increase our appetite — great for those whose appetites desert them during mood downswings — and produce a feeling of joy within us.
This handmade, vegan beard balm is a blend of oils and waxes meant to be absorbed into the skin to help keep facial hair feeling healthy.
According to Huffington Post, turmeric encourages the release of serotonin, the brain chemical that combats depression. And if that wasn't enough, holistic health specialist Dr. Andrew Weil reported that turmeric has shown promise as an antidepressant in test animals, and that its active part, curcumin, has been shown to "enhance nerve growth in the frontal cortex and hippocampal areas of the brain."
This face mask is made with activated charcoal and various essential oils, created to be extra-porous and easily absorb toxins that may be lurking in your skin.
Adding these products to your beauty routine should hopefully boost your mood and help you naturally relieve the anxiety, depression, and day-to-day stress that can sometimes take over our bodies and our minds.
Images: Courtesy Brands