Scents have subtle yet powerful effects on emotions—boosting confidence, easing stress, triggering fond memories and more. Here’s how to use your sense of smell to manage your moods…and other people’s, too!
Increase mental sharpness with fresh flowers. When you need to focus—for instance, to memorize a speech or balance a checkbook—keep a vase of mixed fragrant flowers nearby. Take periodic breaks to consciously “stop and smell the roses.” For kids: This helps when doing homework or studying for a test.
Promote positive family interaction with garlic. Serve garlic bread at dinner. In studies, this scent reduced negative dinnertime remarks by 22.7% and increased pleasantries by 7.4%. You don’t even have to eat the bread to reap the benefits.
Feel younger with pink grapefruit. To make others perceive you as youthful (so you feel that way, too), apply a grapefruit-scented or other citrusy body lotion or spray right after your shower. Avoid: Lavender, which makes you seem granny-ish.
Feel more secure with baby powder. Keep a small bottle or resealable plastic bag of baby powder in your purse or briefcase. Before heading into a challenging situation (a meeting with your ex, a job interview), open the container slightly and take a small whiff. Don’t inhale too deeply—you may sneeze or get powder all over your face.
Curb food cravings with banana or peppermint. You needn’t eat a banana—just smell it (peeled or unpeeled). Or, place two drops of peppermint essential oil on a cotton ball, stick it in a plastic bag and take a whiff—or try sugar-free peppermint gum or hard candy.
Combat claustrophobia with evergreens. Keep a small vial of evergreen essential oil in your pocket or purse. When in a cramped space (an elevator, a crowd), hold the vial near your nose and inhale two or three times. Repeat every 10 minutes as needed.
Assuage anger with cucumber. Hold a sliced cucumber one-half inch from your face and level with your lips—inhale deeply, continuing for several minutes. To reduce road rage, use a cucumber-melon air freshener in the car. Avoid: Barbecuing or roasting meat when you’re angry—the scent stirs up fiery feelings that heighten aggression.
Relax and wind down with lavender. Lie down and place a lavender-scented eye pillow over your eyes—breathe slowly and deeply for several minutes. Avoid: Jasmine, which promotes alertness.
Rev up a man’s libido with pumpkin pie or black licorice. Bake a pumpkin pie for maximum effect—or use a reed diffuser (a stick that wicks the aroma from a bottle of scented oil). On a date: Nibble on black licorice. Noteworthy: Perfume is only 3% effective at arousing a man’s romantic feelings—versus 40% for pumpkin pie and 13% for licorice.