Everyone has them.
Everyone responds to them differently.
Sometimes they can be joyful.
Other times they can be overwhelming.
Emotions on the brain
Do you remember learning about the limbic center of the brain? The amygdala? The hippocampus? Its a part of the brain where we store memories and emotions. I was really excited recently when I read about researchers in 1989 agreeing that the amygdala plays a major role in storing and releasing emotional trauma. Less known to most people, these researchers also agreed that aromas significantly effected triggering various emotional responses.
Of the 5 senses to choose from, the amygdala (often referred to as the "emotional brain") actually directly responds to the sense of smell! Hows that for anatomy trivia?! This shows a direct "hardwired" link between what we smell and how we feel. I found this especially interesting because our emotions play such a huge role in our day to day lives.
In fact, Kate Fox explains it well in "The Smell Report":
"Our olfactory receptors are directly connected to the limbic system, the most ancient and primitive part of the brain, which is thought to be the seat of emotion. Smell sensations are relayed to the cortex, where 'cognitive' recognition occurs, only after the deepest parts of our brains have been stimulated. Thus, by the time we correctly name a particular scent as, for example, 'vanilla,' the scent has already activated the limbic system, triggering more deep-seated emotional responses."
Smell impacts how we see, think, and feel!
A Japanese study found that inhaling essential oils can actually affect your sympathetic nerves responses. Certain oils were found to be stimulating, while others were found to be calming. You may find this study to be interesting as well, where oils have been found to measurably decrease the stress response.
Different scents may also play a powerful role in remembering memories, especially emotional memories. Olfactory input directly impacts the amygdala and hippocampus where your emotions are processed, which explains why certain smells bring back certain feelings and memories - like the smell of pumpkin pie may bring you back to old Thanksgiving days with your grandparents. This article from NBC breaks it down really well.
So, if what you smell can directly impact your feelings, then why not use different scents to help us manage those feelings? That is a great question. Have you tried it? I have through using essential oils, and its done wonders for helping me harness control over how I feel and react to stress.
Which oils help with emotions?
Several! Here are a few I use nearly every day:
It's an uplifting blend of bergamot, ylang ylang, geranium , lemon, coriander, tangerine, jasmine, Roman chamomile, palmarosa, and rose oils.
I often wear Joy as a nontoxic perfume. I keep it on hand in a bottle with a roller top on it, and swipe the roller across the back of my neck and my wrists (and sometimes over my heart, when I really need relief). I can literally feel my nervousness and sadness melt away seconds after I apply it. It's absolutely amazing!
I even used it on my hound when she was shaking nervous at the vet's office... seconds later she was happily wagging her tail!
We use Peace and Calming often too. P&C is made with tangerine, orange, ylang ylang, patchouli, and blue tansy oils.
I love using it on my legs to calm them down on those nights when I just can't stop moving and feeling overly restless. It also helps my son mellow out when we are beginning our bedtime routine. Even our dogs like it! They actually lay next to the diffuser sometimes.
We also use quite a bit of Stress Away in my home too. It is a beautiful blend of Copaiba, Lime, Cedarwood, Vanilla, Ocotea, and Lavender.
There is nothing like the building tension in big city (Washington DC) traffic. I always keep some on hand for those "white-knuckle driving" moments. I gave some to my Mother In-Law recently when she was tense and stressed trying to figure out how to help her aging mother... Less than 20 minutes after I applied a drop to her wrists my MIL was so relaxed she nearly fell asleep!
Valor. One of my absolute favorite oils!
Its a combination of spruce, rosewood, blue tansy and frankincense in a coconut oil base.
The smell is absolutely incredible. Its designed to increase feelings of strength, courage, and self-esteem. It also decreases negative energy, which works wonders when you have a case of nervous jitters or need to boost your confidence! It's also perfect to use after a massage to increase an uplifting mood. I use it on my wrists all the time to help with my anxious feelings, and have even used it on my dogs' paws to help them during anxious moments too.
This is also my absolute favorite nontoxic cologne to have my husband wear. It smells incredible on him!
Have you used different scents or oils to help with your emotions?
I'd love to read about your experiences in the comments below!
Want to read more about what oils I use and why?
Ballard, C.G., O Brien, J.T., Reichelt, K., Perry, E.K. (2002). Aromatherapy as a safe and effective treatment for the management of agitation in severe dementia: the results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with Melissa. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 63, 553-8.
Hirsch, AR, Inhalation of Odorants for Weight Reduction, Int J Obes, 1994 pg 306.
LeDoux, JE, Rationalizing Thoughtless Emotions, Insight, Sept 1989
Fox, K. The Smell Report. Social Issues Research Center.