By Sandi Schwartz | Contributor
We are all familiar with the old adage “stop and smell the roses.” It helps us remember to take a moment and appreciate what we have and the beauty of simple things like a bed of flowers in our neighborhood. This saying also points to the interesting fact that fragrances naturally occurring in our environment can help us to relax and boost our mood. Indeed, our sense of smell is one tool that we can easily tap into to reduce tension and stress.
That is why there is a 72-billion-dollar perfume industry and an over one-billion-dollar aromatherapy industry. From massage oils to incense to trendy perfumes, there are tons of delicious smelling options to make us feel happier and calmer. We can easily purchase these fragrances to make us feel better, but it’s also fun to try to find these natural scents outside and share them with our children. Here are some of the most relaxing natural scents according to science.
There is no scent more relaxing than lavender. Extracted from the fresh flower of the lavender plant, the oil has been shown to have sedating effects that help our body and mind relax. Its antioxidant components can lower the level of stress hormones in our body and soothe our nerves to relieve anxiety and depression. Visit a garden with lavender or plant your own around your home. Lavender is also available in many forms that you can purchase, including aromatherapy oil, bath gels, extracts, infusions, lotions, soaps, teas, tinctures, and whole dried flowers. When your children are stressed and before they go to sleep at night, try spraying some lavender for anxiety or rubbing some lavender lotion to calm them.
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Jasmine is another floral scent that is known to lift our mood. A 2010 study found that the smell of jasmine creates a sense of alertness and reduces sad thoughts. It is used to calm nerves and as an anti-depressant because of its uplifting capabilities that produce a feeling of confidence, optimism, and revitalized energy. Grow your own jasmine plants and enjoy their fragrance or grab some jasmine aromatherapy oils.
The smell of pine trees is also known to relieve stress. In one Japanese study, participants who went on a walk through a pine forest said that they felt significantly lower levels of depression and stress. If you live near a pine forest, take the kids for an enjoyable and relaxing hike as you breathe in the aroma of pine. If you do not live near pine trees, then consider planning a getaway to experience them in person. You can always enjoy some pine scented aromatherapy oils as well.
Now this is one that all of us can easily enjoy! Did you know that the smell of freshly-cut grass can make you happier? It might be because the smell of freshly-cut grass reminds us of happy, playful days running around our yard, but scent researchers also found that a chemical released by a newly-mowed lawn can make people feel more joyful and relaxed. So, get your family outside and mow the lawn or walk around your neighborhood looking for some freshly-cut grass to take a whiff of.
Now we turn to some foods and spices that provide natural scents to calm our mood. Rosemary is associated with positive emotions like happiness and can reduce cortisol levels. So, make sure to stock up your spice rack with some rosemary and let your children enjoy its relaxing smell when they are feeling restless.
The smell of citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, and grapefruit help to calm us down when we feel angry or anxious and give us a boost of energy. Your options for smelling more citrus fruits during your day are endless.
- Go to a supermarket and let your kids pick up lemons and other citrus to touch and smell them.
- If you are in the right climate, plant some citrus trees in your backyard. We have a lemon tree behind our house and my kids love picking them and taking a big whiff of that lemony fragrance.
- Buy organic citrus fruits to enjoy eating at home. Also, squeeze their juice into fresh water to enjoy with your meals.
- Instead of using traditional chemicals to clean your home, use lemon to keep everything sparkly while also getting the extra benefit of a soothing scent throughout your home.
Do you prefer chocolate or vanilla? Well, when it comes to natural scents, vanilla has been proven to lift our spirits. A study published in 2004 found that smelling a vanilla bean elevated participants’ feelings of joy and relaxation. Other studies have shown that smelling vanilla can stabilize our heart rate and reduce blood pressure. Derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla, we can easily find this pleasurable scent in the grocery store aisle. You can let your children enjoy the relaxing smell of vanilla by cooking with organic vanilla extract, wearing vanilla perfume, or even buying some whole vanilla beans.
Bonus Natural Scents
One of the key reasons that smells reduce stress and make us feel happier is that they trigger a pleasant memory in our lives. Each of us has a unique set of experiences that include scents that may make us feel better. Some people love the smell of the beach because it reminds them of relaxing vacations. Other people love the aroma of pumpkin pie because they recall enjoyable times during Halloween or Thanksgiving. Have fun experimenting with your kids to discover which scents make them the happiest and calmest.