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Sniff Your Way to Relaxation: Part I

Aromatherapy seems to be the new catchword. Everything from body lotion to kitchen trash bags contain some sort of scent to them. But does having lavender in your dish soap really help you reach a state of relaxation?

A smell can bring on a flood of memories, influence people's moods and even affect their work performance. Because the olfactory bulb is part of the brain's limbic system, an area so closely associated with memory and feeling it's sometimes called the "emotional brain," smell can call up memories and powerful responses almost instantaneously.

When you smell something for the first time, you link it to an event, person, thing or moment. Your brain forges a strong link between the smell and a memory—associating the smell of pumpkin pie with Thanksgiving or lilies with Great Grandma. When you encounter that smell again, the link elicits the memory or mood you initially associated with that scent.

So how do you use scents to create a sense of relaxation in yourself? Essential oils and fragrances have inherent properties that lend themselves well to relaxation- lavender, chamomile, ylang-ylang. Begin by figuring out which scents you are attracted to. You can simply go to your local health food store and smell the scents they have available, or find a ‘smells café’ where you are allowed to sample many more fragrances. Next month, we’ll look at the properties of more commonly used relaxing scents and discuss ways to incorporate these scents into your relaxation regiment.

Next month: Properties of relaxing scents

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