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Olfactory Life Hacks: Scents That Increase Brain Power

Olfactory Life Hacks: Scents That Increase Brain Power

    During the course of any given day at the office, you undoubtedly drink coffee to help you stay alert, or try deep breathing exercises to calm your nerves after a particularly harrowing staff meeting. But what if there was an easier way to regulate your moods and trick your brain into performing to its peak potential?

    For many people, one simple life hack that can bring about an almost instant improvement in productivity is aromatherapy. By simply smelling the correct scents, you can lower your blood pressure, sharpen your mind, and improve your outlook on life.

    The Science of Aromatherapy

    According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, aromatherapy as a science had its start in the early 20th century. “René-Maurice Gattefossé, a French chemist, discovered the healing properties of lavender oil when he applied it to a burn on his hand caused by an explosion in his laboratory. He then started to analyze the chemical properties of essential oils and how they were used to treat burns, skin infections, gangrene, and wounds in soldiers during World War I.”

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    The process is still not well understood by modern doctors and scientists, however. According to the experts at UMMC: “Some experts believe our sense of smell may play a role. The “smell” receptors in your nose communicate with parts of your brain (the amygdala and hippocampus) that serve as storehouses for emotions and memories. When you breathe in essential oil molecules, some researchers believe that they stimulate these parts of your brain and influence physical, emotional, and mental health.”

    What Scents Are Best For You?

    The majority of aromatherapy benefits fall into one of four categories: Energizing/Invigorating, Stress Relief, Sleep Aids, or Mood Elevators. By placing a few drops of these essential oils into a diffuser in your home or office, you can feel the benefits of being exposed to these healing scents. Switch up the essential oils at a moment’s notice to trick your brain into performing the tasks you need to accomplish.

    Here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular scents, along with their benefits:

    Energizing/Invigorating: Orange, Rosemary, Lemon.

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    Stress Relief: Jasmine, Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Clary Sage.

    Sleep Aids: Lavender, Chamomile, Sandalwood, Vetiver.

    Mood Elevators: Mint, Basil Oil, Bergamot.

    So on a day when you need to improve your mental focus, you might want to eat an orange at your desk, and leave the rind nearby where you can smell it. Conversely, if you need to ensure a good night’s sleep before a big presentation that’s got you stressed out, consider sleeping with a lavender sachet under your pillow, or setting up a lavender essential oil diffuser in your bedroom about half an hour before you plan to hit the hay.

    You can use diffusers or nebulizers to aerate the oil. Alternatively, you can apply some essential oils directly to the skin to reap their benefits. Make sure to read the directions carefully before using any essential oils to make sure you are going to use it in a way that will give you maximum benefits.

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    Where Can I Get This Stuff?

    You can purchase essential oils online, or at your local health food store. Alternatively, you can purchase whole fruits, herbs, or flowers from your local supermarket or an herbalist/new age shop in your area.

    Depending on whether the product is organic or not, you should be able to pick up a tiny jar of essential oil (about 1 fluid ounce of product) for between $2 and $10. Certain essential oils are more expensive than others, of course.

    Not all essential oils are created equal, however. According to Dr. Brian Lawrence, “For an essential oil to be a true essential oil, it must be isolated by physical means only. The physical methods used are distillation (steam, steam/water and water) or expression (also known as cold pressing, a unique feature for citrus peel oils). There is one other method of oil isolation specific to a very limited number of essential oil plants. This is a maceration/distillation. In the process, the plant material is macerated in warm water to release the enzyme-bound essential oil. Examples of oils produced by maceration are onion, garlic, wintergreen, bitter almond, etc.”

    Conclusion

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    The next time you need to manipulate your brain into doing what you’re trying to tell it to, consider using the practice of aromatherapy as a life hack to increase your productivity. Our sense of smell is deeply tied to our memories and to our moods, so having a couple of vials of essential oil on hand can really help to improve brain function and tap into your hidden energy reserves. It may seem kind of new age-y, but tapping into your sense of smell can center you in a way that will really help you to seize the day.

    Additional Reading

    If you’re interested in learning more, check out:

    A World of Aromatherapy

    The National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy

    Essentials of Aromatherapy

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    Last Updated on December 2, 2018

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

    The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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    The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

    Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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    Review Your Past Flow

    Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

    Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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    Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

    Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

    Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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    Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

    Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

    We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

    Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

      Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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