Using Smell to Shift Your Mood

Updated: Jan 2, 2018

What are the smells that connect you to a feeling, a time, a place when you felt truly alive?



The smell of Brilliant Brunette Shampoo awakens my soul every time I smell it.


I was 16 years old and on my first white-water rafting trip with my best friend and her family. It was late September in the New River Gorge. It was cool out, and the leaves were brilliant hues of red and orange.


We had our wetsuits on and spent the day navigating class 4 and 5 rapids with a river guide who was distracted by our provocative raft-mates. Needless to say, we capsized more than we floated. On the bus back to the launch point, we had slaw dogs. If you've never had coleslaw on a hotdog, you don't know what you're missing.


We returned to the launch site exhausted, happy, and freezing. I hopped in the shower at the bathhouse and took a looooong, hot shower, lathering my damp hair with Brilliant Brunette shampoo. It was perhaps one of the most satisfying showers of my life.


To this day, the smell of Brilliant Brunette Shampoo takes me back to that trip and that feeling. Sleepy, warm, and full, the feeling of true contentedness.


I share the story to reinforce the power of our olfactory sense aka our sense of smell. The good ole' olfactory bulb, which processes the sensory input of smell, is directly connected to the amygdala and hippocampus, which are responsible for emotions and memories, respectively. This is why smell has the power to evoke strong memories and emotions.



So how can we utilize this connection to shift our mood when we are in a tough spot?


What smells bring you alive? Is it the smell of fresh cut grass? The smell of a bonfire, sunscreen lotion, an old family cookie recipe?


What is it about these smells and memories that gives you the warm and fuzzies?


For me, it was the combination of deep friendship, adventure, and good food. What do these elements tell me about what lights me up? Well, when I'm feeling zapped and burned out, how many of these 3 elements am I incorporating into my life?


What are your memories? Take some time to stop and smell the roses (literally).


Find a smell this week that lights you up. Close your eyes and remember the feeling you associate with the smell.


Inhale deeply and get lost for a moment in the feeling.


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