The best route to boosting your mood, banishing stress and beating cravings may well be right under your nose. More to the point, it is your nose. “Tapping into your sense of smell is one of the quickest ways to change your perspective or even your behavior,” says Alan Hirsch, M.D., director of The Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. “The body’s limbic center — the part of the brain that controls your emotions — is directly connected to the olfactory system.”
Wanted: A quick pick-me-up
Try: A little peppermint
This scent stimulates the region of the brain that controls wakefulness, says Bryan Raudenbush, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Wheeling Jesuit University.
How: When your energy is low, suck on a peppermint candy, suggests Rachel Herz, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Brown University. The aroma makes its way directly from the back of your throat to your sinus passages, where its restorative powers hit home hard.
AND: From easing foot pain to soothing arthritis, find out more good stuff peppermint can do!
Wanted: A sense of calm
Compounds in this herb have been shown to have a mildly sedating effect on the emotional center of the brain, Herz notes.
How: Soak in a warm bath surrounded by lavender-scented candles — the heat from the bath reinforces the herb’s stress-busting power
AND: Learn how lavender can help calm headaches and migraines
Wanted: A turbocharged brain
Try: A dash of cinnamon
Studies show that people are more alert behind the wheel when buoyed by the scent of this hearty spice. According to Raudenbush, cinnamon’s aroma appears to increase blood flow to the brain, which in turn supplies it with nourishing oxygen and glucose.
How: Top off your lipstick with cinnamon lip balm.
Wanted: A craving cutback
In a Brown University study, researchers found that women who wore a vanilla-scented patch began dropping weight — without really trying. “Since vanilla is a common ingredient in sweets like cookies and cake, it provides the same sensory stimulation that consuming them does — without getting the extra calories,” Herz explains.
How: Keep a bowl of vanilla-scented potpourri as close as you can to the snack cupboard and sniff whenever you’re tempted to nosh.
AND: Crazy for chocolate? Lust after pizza? Find out the hidden meaning behind your cravings
Wanted: A better mood
It’s no surprise this tangy scent can lift your spirits. Because citrusy smells so often bring to mind fresh-squeezed juice, sun-filled mornings and the promise of brand-new days, they have a naturally “happy” association, says Herz.
How: Shower with a citrus-scented body wash or dab on a citrusy fragrance first thing in the morning.
Want to boost your immune system? Find out how here.