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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 December 9, 2019

    5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

    5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

    Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

    Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

    Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

    1. Get Rationally Optimistic

    Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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    This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

    In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

    The result: no more mental stress.

    2. Unplug

    Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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    How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

    It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

    Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

    3. Easy on the Caffeine

    Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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    Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

    4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

    That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

    How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

    • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
    • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
    • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

    While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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    5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

    This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

    The result: mental stress will be gone!

    So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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    Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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