The neocortex, the most sophisticated part of the brain, allows us to plan ahead, prioritize tasks, and understand feelings or poetry. And because of this high level of sophistication of our brains, we get to experience life in unique ways through our five senses. We can also influence our mood and well-being with smell, taste, and sound. Let’s see how.
The part of the brain responsible for processing smells is located very close to the limbic system and the amygdala. This is why our sense of smell is related to how we experience emotions.
Feelings and memories connected to smells
Nature made this very convenient for us–sensing a familiar scent can transport us to a distant memory or even bring back forgotten memories. Smell is also an important factor in bonding and creating strong relationships, because familiar smells of the people we love evoke emotions and make us feel a strong connection to them.
Our individual experiences with smells can vary–yet there are certain scents that are recognized as energizing, relaxing, and exciting. A good example is the delicate, soothing smell of lavender, that is used to relieve stress and promote sleep.
Health, well-being, and smells
In ancient China, India, and Egypt, human beings have been cultivating the tradition of aromatherapy for thousands of years. They used essential oils from flowers, herbs, and trees to improve health and well-being.
Aromatherapy enhances both physical and emotional health. In a study published in 2022, a group of scientists researched the contribution of smells experienced in the woodlands to people’s well-being in all four seasons.
The study participants described the impact of smell on several domains of their experience such as their physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, or overall well-being. Most of them associated the smell of earth and wood with relaxation, comfort, and rejuvenation, but some also described a feeling of empowerment or a connection with nature. On the spiritual side, flower scents were connected to a feeling of heightened awareness and a clear mind.
Featuring 100% aromatherapy-grade pure essential oils, our new Grateful candle has been designed with this in mind–to help you harness the therapeutic benefits of aromatherapy through a fresh, invigorating scent. The Grateful Candle features three cohesive scent notes: spearmint, lemongrass, lemon and eucalyptus across the top. Buchu, clove, geranium, lavender and blackcurrant throughout the middle, and a cedarwood base for grounding.
Fresh yet comforting, cozy yet invigorating–the Gratitude candle calls for self-love, positivity, and personal growth made simple. In the act of lighting this candle, we hope you’re able to establish small yet positive habits that enable growth and happiness.
How to use smells to enhance our well-being
Smells play a major role in our well-being. Here are three simple steps you can follow to harness the healing and mood boosting benefits of scents and aromatherapy:
1. Light up natural, pure essential oil candles and engage in your favorite rituals–meditation, journaling, reading, yoga, or self-care.
2. Take a trip down memory lane and cook a dish or bake a cake that reminds you of your childhood.
3. Spend a day in nature or the urban park and refresh your mind with the smell of trees, flowers, and fresh air.
While smell does play a vital role in the sense of taste–without which the fullest experience of taste wouldn’t be possible–there is so much more to our taste landscape. Just like familiar smells, certain tastes have the ability to evoke particular feelings and sensations or provide emotional comfort.
Taste leading to health and longevity
The sense of taste may play a role in our longevity and well-being. In 2014, a group of researchers discovered that if they disable a fruit fly from feeling the taste of its food, its lifespan shortens regardless of how much food it actually consumes. The conclusion was that tasting food may be an important factor in healthy aging.
Another study found that sweet tastes have a positive effect on our lifespan, as opposed to bitter tastes. It appears that our taste buds have a crucial role in our overall health and well-being than we might have imagined.
How to use taste to prolong your well-being
One of the best ways to improve your well-being through taste is to commit to the practice of mindful eating–a holistic approach towards food consumption that focuses on your sensual awareness of the food and your overall experience of the food.
Here are the simple steps you can begin with:
1. Ask yourself mindful questions: Why did I pick this meal? What is my experience of this food? Is it nourishing for my body, mind, and soul?
2. Be fully present with your food and limit the distractions. Experience your food by noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures, and flavors.
3. Create a mindful eating atmosphere: light up a candle, use a nice tablecloth, and serve food in a beautiful way, even if you’re eating alone. Food tastes better when it looks aesthetically appealing.
4. Put an emphasis on eating seasonal and organically grown food. Summer strawberries taste way more satisfying than those grown in December.
5. Remember some of the tastes from your childhood and recreate those flavors.
The human relationship to sounds is unique and different from any other living being. For example, the sound of objects has the power to activate our brain regions responsible for movement. What kind of power do you think music might have on our brains, then?
Music and brain power
The main brain regions for processing sound and music are located near to the dopamine centers that participate in body movement and coordination. When we listen to music, the dopamine increases, and so does our response to the rhythm. This effect can be so powerful that it can temporarily stop the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, and the person who wasn’t able to stand up without assistance minutes ago can suddenly walk.
Music is such a powerful stimulant for our brain. It keeps the whole brain activated and enhances many of our cognitive functions by keeping the different networks in our brain strongly connected and active. Studies have also shown that playing music in the background can increase our learning ability while studying and, similar to smells, it awakens memories and particular emotions.
Sound effects on health and well-being
Recent studies have demonstrated that listening to music improves our mood, well-being, happiness, as well as overall life quality. As we’ve seen with Parkinson’s disease, music can positively affect our health. It also helps to slow down the symptoms of dementia, reduce pain, and help the recovery from lung disease and stroke.
Almost everyone has that one song that touches them deeply when they’re sad or pick their spirits up. Music is a part of our culture, a representation of our mood, lifestyle, personality, and our life journey. It is a part of who we are, which is why it has the power to heal us.
And it's not only music that has therapeutic, healing benefits. An interesting study from 2021 revealed the healing power of the sounds of nature on our health and stress levels. The positive effect was present even in the urban parks, where the sounds of nature mixed with human and city sounds.
In every possible sense, nature truly is the best therapist.
How to use sounds and music to enhance our well-being
As little as playing ambient, calming music in the background and listening to your favorite playlist can increase your productivity and improve your mood. Here are some additional suggestions on using music and sounds to your well-being benefit:
1. Spend a day in nature or the local park and focus on the sounds. Find a comfortable spot, close your eyes, and simply listen. Try to identify the sounds from trees, grass, and animals.
2. Play different types of music–classical, low-key, disco, jazz, or ambient and identify how it makes you feel. Then, design your optimal mood playlists.
Our life experience sits at the crossroads of our senses. By getting to know how our senses, feelings, and thoughts create and influence our experiences, we get to become the architects of our life and well-being.