Discovering Mindfulness Through Scent
This past week I found myself transported. While driving through an unexpected and magnificent mountain range, I came upon a valley draped in mist. The temperature had dropped considerably from 15 minutes prior, and it felt as if time were standing still. You could smell the dampness in the air, the heavy scent of trees, and the freshness of the grass. In a flash, I was transported to my grandparents' house in New York and the early mornings as a young child when I would ride in a little wagon behind my grandfather as he mowed the lawn. I remembered the chill of the sunrise hour and the significance I felt at being chosen to aid in what felt like an all-important task. As I slipped deeper into the memory, a wave of calm, safety, and an overpowering sense of love washed over me and lasted for the entire duration while we drove through the valley.
Our olfactory sense is perhaps the most unique in this manner, how smells or aromas have the ability to evoke not only memory but emotions too. In the book Aromatherapy, written by Dr. Blossom Kochhar, she discusses the science, noting that scent has the power to interact with the body's hormones and enzymes, stimulating the limbic system, which controls emotions and retrieves memories. Tiny cilia inside of the nose collect the scent molecules for us, and by sending electrical impulses to the brain, we then create feelings on a subconscious level. Aromas can also send messages to our brain via the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, notifying our nervous system how to respond to a situation, whether it be to relax or to engage.
While scent is first and foremost a primal disposition, we have since developed into seeking scent for pleasure; utilizing the calming or stimulating properties, it can bring. It's no wonder then why we take such joys in bottling scents, decorating our homes, and dousing our bodies with it. Whether it be calming lavender or energizing eucalyptus, enjoying the benefits of olfactory bliss can be mesmerizing and healing. Scent can be used as an escape but can also be a method to make us more mindful. Like a meditation technique, scents can enhance our experience of the here and now and allow for deeper grounding.
Some Easy Ways for Discovering Mindfulness through Scent
1. Burning Candles/Incense
Create a vibe and enhance your space with the use of aromatherapy. Burn candles made from natural components like soy wax that contain pure essential oils. For stress relief and productivity, burn jasmine, vanilla, sandalwood, cinnamon, rose, or lavender. If choosing to burn incense, make sure to do so in a well-ventilated area and that the incense is both natural and organic.
2. Keeping Fresh Flowers
Whether it be from your personal garden or the local florist, keeping fresh flowers in your space can be both uplifting and soothing. Gardenia is known to act as a natural sedative, and honeysuckle can prevent depressive symptoms and decrease mental strain. (Learn more about flowers that boost your mood here!)
3. Invest in a Good Diffusor
Diffusers are great for utilizing essential oils and maintaining the longevity of the fragrance. I encourage you to check out Vitruvi, a cult favorite, which offers non-toxic, all-natural, 100% pure essential oils.
4. Growing Fresh Herbs in the Kitchen
Do you have a windowsill that gets decent light? It's easy enough to grow herbs right from your kitchen. Some beneficial herbs to grow are Rosemary, Basil, and Thyme for their many healing properties.
Rosemary improves memory retention and has stimulating properties that fight physical exhaustion, headaches, and mental fatigue.
Basil has a tonic effect on the nerves, is an antiseptic and relieves pain and eases stress.
Thyme is a strong general stimulant and reduces fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
5. Luxuriating in Healing Baths
Why take a regular bath when you can take a healing bath? By adding essential oils to your cleansing routine, you will benefit in a plethora of ways.
For Relaxing: Cypress/Rose
For Well-Being: Basil/Rosemary
For Refreshing: Lavender/Lemon
For an Aphrodisiac: Jasmine/Sandalwood
**For those who prefer showers, hang some dried lavender or eucalyptus from your shower head which creates a sauna effect!**
6. Drinking Hot Beverages
One of the best things about a warm beverage is the scent it emits. Try drinking hot water with lemon or ginger in the morning to aid your digestion, and sprinkle cinnamon atop your coffee or latte. Enjoying chamomile or peppermint tea in the evenings is a lovely way to wind down.
Lemon- cardiac stimulant, lowers blood pressure, purifies the liver, beneficial for sore throat, and good for the hands and nails.
Cinnamon- strong antiseptic and mild aphrodisiac.
Chamomile- calms the nervous system, eases discomfort, and aids in fluid retention.
Peppermint- calms, relieves asthma, cleanses the blood, and cures migraines.
**All aromatherapy information was sourced from Dr. Blossom Kochhar’s book Aromatherapy: A Way of Life. I encourage anyone interested in the science of scent to read her work!**