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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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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on May 28, 2020

    How to Overcome Boredom

    How to Overcome Boredom

    Have you ever been bored? Restless? Fidgety? In need of some inspiration?

    I have a theory on boredom. I believe that the rate of boredom has increased alongside the pace of technology.

    If you think about it, technology has provided us with mobile phones, laptops, Ipads, device after device – all to ultimately fix one problem: boredom.

    What is Boredom?

    We have become a global nation that feeds on entertainment. We associate ‘living’ with ‘doing’. People now do not know how to sit still, and we feel guilty when we are not doing anything. Today, inactivity has become the ultimate sin.

    You might not realize it, but boredom stimulates a form of anxiety and stress. It evokes an emotional state that creates frustration and feeds procrastination.

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    It’s a desire to be ‘doing something’ or to be ‘entertained’ – it’s a desire for sensory stimulation. What it boils down to is a lack of focus.

    If you think about those times when you’re bored, it’s usually because you did not know what to do. So, indecision also plays a big part.

    When we are focused on what’s important to us and what we want to achieve, it’s pretty hard to be bored. So, one answer to boredom is to become focused on what you want.

    Sometimes It’s Good to Be Bored

    If boredom is a desire for sensory stimulation – then what’s the opposite of that? To be content with no stimulation – in other words – to enjoy stillness.

    Sometimes, it’s not boredom itself that causes the frustration but the resistance to doing nothing.

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    Think about it. What would happen if you were to ‘let go’ of the desire to be entertained? You wouldn’t be bored anymore, and you will feel more relaxed!

    In my experience, it’s often the most obvious, simplistic solutions that are the most powerful in life. So, when you’re bored, the easiest way to combat this is to enjoy it.

    It may sound weird but think of ‘boredom’ as a form of ‘relaxation’. It’s a break from the constant stimulation that 21st-century living provides – constant TVs, mobile phones, radios, internet, emails, phone calls, etc.

    Who knows, maybe ‘boredom’ is actually good for us?

    Next time you’re ‘feeling bored’ instead of feeding the frustration by frantically looking for something to do, maybe you can sit back, relax, and savor the feeling of having nothing to do.

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    In this article, I’ll share with you my 3-step strategy on how to overcome boredom.

    3-Step Strategy to Overcome Boredom

    1. Get Focused

    Instead of chasing sensory stimulation at random, focus on what’s really important to you. Focusing on something important helps prevent boredom because it forces you to utilize your time productively.

    You should ask yourself: what would make good use of your time? What could you be doing that would contribute to your major goals in life?

    Here are a few ideas:

    • Spend some time in quiet contemplation considering what’s important to you.
    • Start that creative project you’ve been talking about for the last few weeks.
    • Brainstorm: think of some ideas for new innovative products or businesses.

    2. Kill Procrastination

    Boredom is useful in some ways because it gives you the energy and time to do things. It is only a problem if you let it. But if you use it to motivate yourself to be productive, then you can more easily overcome boredom.

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    So, the next time you’re bored, why not put this good energy to use by ticking off those things that you have been meaning to get done but have been too busy to finish? This also presents a great time for you to clear your to-do list.

    Here are some ideas:

    • Do some exercise.
    • Read a book.
    • Learn something new.
    • Call a friend.
    • Get creative (draw, paint, sculpt, create music, write).
    • Do a spring cleaning.
    • Wash the car.
    • Renovate the house.
    • Re-arrange the furniture.
    • Write your shopping list.
    • Water the plants.
    • Walk the dog.
    • Sort out your mail & email.
    • De-clutter (clear out that wardrobe).

    3. Enjoy Boredom

    If none of the above solutions work, then you can try a different approach. Don’t give in to boredom and instead choose to enjoy it. This doesn’t mean allowing yourself to waste your time being bored. Instead, think of it as your time to relax and re-energize, which will help you be more productive the next time you work.

    Contrary to popular belief, we don’t need to be constantly doing things to be productive. In fact, research has shown that people are more productive when they take periods of rest to recharge.[1] Taking breaks once in a while helps boost your performance and can help make you feel more motivated.

    So, take some time to relax. You never know, you might even like it.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to overcome boredom may be difficult at the beginning, but it can be easier if you make use of some techniques. You can start with my 3-step strategy on how to overcome boredom and work your way from there. So, ready your mind and make use of these tips, and you will be overcoming boredom in no time.

    More Tips on Overcoming Boredom

    Featured photo credit: Johnny Cohen via unsplash.com

    Reference

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