Stuffiness is upon us. By this time each year, the spaces where we live and work smell almost unbearably stale. It’s a little early to open the windows – so it's also the season of air fresheners, potpourri, and essential oils.

But there are many, many air fresheners, potpourris, and essential oils to choose from—which ones should you use?

Scientists have spent a lot of time figuring out how the way a space smells influences how we think and behave while we’re in it. The effects of aromas they’ve identified are found when an area is lightly scented. An odor that draws attention often stresses out those forced to smell it, which isn’t your objective, probably. Also, science has shown that the effects that scents have on us continue after our nose has adjusted to them and no longer perceives them, even faintly.

Scientists have linked particular sorts of thoughts and behaviors to smelling certain scents. As you’re walking down that store aisle, looking at air fresheners, potpourris, and essential oils, developing a smellscape for your home, keep in mind what researchers doing stringent studies, many in laboratories, have learned.

  • Smelling floral odors, particularly jasmine and hyacinth, has been tied to reduced anxiety. So has smelling oranges. The scents of ylang-ylang and mango have been found to be calming. Researchers have also linked smelling lavender to feeling relaxed.
  • Want to feel more energized? Try adding the fragrance of grapefruit or tangerine or peppermint or eucalyptus to wherever you are.
  • Being in an area scented with chocolate or coffee has been linked to better cognitive function as well as improved performance of clerical-type work tasks. Smelling rosemary has been tied to upgraded alertness and long-term memory function. The scents of common garden sage and peppermint have both also been associated with better alertness and memory.
  • Break out the lemon drops! Smelling lemon has been linked to feeling calmer and improved mental performance.
  • Smelling sweet smells, particularly strawberries, seems to make us feel happier.
  • Getting a whiff of cinnamon has been linked to thinking more creatively.

Scientists have learned a lot about how scents influence how we think and behave—and you can apply their insights by actively smellscaping your home, office, and life.

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