How “smells” affect our moods

It’s ice cream season.



For me, that means the flavor of vanilla. The only other ice cream flavor I like is Butter Pecan. But mostly I like vanilla. But I like vanilla for lots of reasons.

I like vanilla in warm milk. (My daughter calls it sleepy-time milk when she gives it to her two little boys.)  I like vanilla pudding. While I like chocolate, vanilla is my favorite. A touch of vanilla in almost any cake, cookie or dessert recipe adds to the taste. It’s also great in tart recipes as it “softens” the tartness.  I love the scent of it so much that anytime I’m in Bath and Body Works, I buy Warm Vanilla Sugar in every product they carry. Every woman I know loves it.

Maybe it reminds us of when we were little girls and we smelled cookies baking in the oven. Maybe it makes us feel “mothered”, especially if we never were. Did you know that smells can actually soothe us, energize us, makes us more mentally acute? What do you think is behind the success of the aforementioned Bath and Body Works? They have tapped into the psychology of smell and we’ve bought it hook, line and sinker. That’s not meant as an insult. Quite the contrary. I think it’s great. I love going in and smelling all the new “flavors”.

vanilla flavoring/informational

I’m copying this article directly from the Internet. It’s a really good explanation of what I’ve been saying and might even explain the “mothering” theory. What do you think?

The psychology of design: How to create an environment in which you will thrive

by Sally Augustin, Ph.D.

The Smell Is Right – Using Scents to Enhance Life (Part 2)

Scents influence us in predictable ways.

Published on January 13, 2010 by Sally Augustin, Ph.D. in People, Places, and Things.

The scents that surround us have a significant influence on how we live our lives. Specific smells have predictable psychological effects, as discussed in part 1 of this article – lemon improves our performance on cognitive tasks while peppermint has the same result when we are doing physical work, for example.

Researchers have also found that scents each of us individually classify as pleasant influence us in foreseeable ways:

  • When we smell a scent that we think is pleasant while we’re waiting somewhere, it seems to us that we’ve been waiting for a shorter time than if a pleasant smell is absent. If you know that you, or others, will be spending a lot of time on hold or in a linge, add a pleasant smell to your environment. 
  • We’re apt to linger in spaces that smell good – so scent is a way that you can encourage people to gather in particular sections of your home during a party.
  • Smelling pleasant scents also puts us into a generally good mood, which means we’re apt to be more creative and more interested in resolving disagreements genially as opposed to confrontationally.
  • perfume/informational
  • Gamblers bet more money when they’re in a good smelling place, so, if you often lose at cards, don’t add potpourri to the den when the poker game’s at your house.
  • When we smell pleasant scents, we’re more apt to recall pleasant memories, which is good if you’re not feeling well or under stress – and you’ll generally report that you feel less pain when you smell a pleasant smell than you will when you’re not doing so.
  • We’re more confident when we are smelling a pleasant scent – so wearing that perfume or cologne you like is a good idea when you’re taking the law boards or defending your dissertation.
  • Scented spaces seem larger than unscented ones, and, as a bonus, those larger seeming scented spaces also seem cleaner and brighter than unscented ones – even if we don’t consciously register that scent – conscious registration is not necessary for the repercussions of pleasant smells noted above, either.

Smelling the same smell in two different places where you’ll be working on a project puts you in the same mood as in both spaces and calls the same memories to mind. If your home office and a workplace share an odor, it will help you work more effectively in both places.


What about unpleasant smells? They mobilize us to action – particularly to leave spaces. So, if your guests just don’t get the hint . . .

I thought that was a great article. I even met someone recently who is an employment recruiter for chemists whose sole job is to analyze smells. They are in big demand.

Who knew?

What are your favorite smells? What do they remind you of?

God bless and surround yourself with something “good smelling” for today.


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