As we creep ever further into the milder days of spring, it is hard to ignore the small signs of the upcoming seasonal transition. From clumps of bright white snowdrops punctuating gloomy corners of the garden and subtle bursts of purple crocus flowers littering the lawn, to the pungent aroma of a daphne shrub filling the early morning air, the harbingers of change are here for all to see and smell.
You may even have noticed a gentle lift in your spirits as you sense these fragrant flowers, or a flicker of joy as you smell the sweet and musty aroma of rain on gently warmed roads (known, technically, as petrichor). So does this mean that smells can actually change our mood? There is evidence to suggest that this is certainly the case.
Neuroscience explains that our sense of smell and our emotions are closely linked. Simply put, a smell enters our nose, which stimulates the sending of olfactory sensory neurons (specialised sensory cells) to the part of our brain which processes and allows us to perceive smell, the olfactory cortex. The olfactory cortex is also a part of our limbic system (amygdala, hippocampus, and hypothalamus), which is involved in the forming and processing of our emotions and memories. Since the olfactory system nerves connect directly to the structures of the limbic system, it means that aromas are capable of triggering both positive and negative emotions.
Journal of Environment and Society, Ambio, published an article in 2022 exploring the effect of smells in nature on human wellbeing, concluding that they can induce a “range of positive emotional states, including joy, happiness and excitement”. Among other research, it looked at a previous investigation into the therapeutic potential of different landscapes, stating that Finlay et al. (2015) “found that participants enjoyed the smell of herbs and had a desire to immerse themselves in smells”, and that Glass et al. (2014) “had discovered that summer air (leaf alcohol) and beeswax were associated with promoting happiness”.
The use of aromatic oils for therapeutic effect and perfumery has been practised since ancient times, with a vast variety of plant oils still used today in beauty and aromatherapy, purported to help improve mood and aid relaxation. A 2021 article on the National Library of Medicine’s website examines the effect of essential oils in mood disorders, and states “the scent molecules of the EOs [essential oils], through activation of smell signals in the brain, can have a therapeutic effect on mood.”
The effect of smell on our emotions is great news, as it means we can help brighten our mood simply by introducing scents which make us feel happy to our daily routines. We can do this in a variety of ways, like using a shampoo we love, wearing a perfume which brings us joy, and even by introducing relaxing or invigorating fragrances into our homes.
Aromatic diffusers are a simple way of introducing scents into your home: reeds are inserted into a glass bottle scented diffuser oil, which then soak up and emit the pleasant aroma around your home. Luxury Cotswold brand Narbeth’s Dawn to Dusk Reed Diffuser layers woody leather and sandalwood, with sweet and smooth lavender, and fresh eucalyptus to create a warm yet invigorating sensation.
Scented candles are another subtle way of introducing fragrance and comfort to your environment. Try the soothing soft fragrance of the Fusion Scented Candle, with its notes of citrus grapefruit and neroli, and warm and woody rosemary and lavender; the Rainflower scented candle with its notes of fresh and floral ylang ylang and almond blossom, along with a lasting fragrance of musk and sweet vanilla; and the Life of Riley leather drum candle, which is beautifully fragranced with warm and sensual ylang ylang and sandalwood.
Find our full range of home fragrance in our Interiors collection.