The Sense of Smell for a Better State of Mind

, 25 July 2015

The feeling of being stuck isn't a particularly good state of mind. I was stuck on this blog. I wanted to discuss how the sense of smell worked, how that sense affected the brain, how memory and emotions worked, and how the sensation of smell could affect mood and memory. I wanted to discuss the idea of consciousness

and the definition of better state of mind. I wanted to discuss associative learning and neural networking. I wanted to propose a mechanism by which aroma could lead to a better state of mind. Then I realized I don't have time to write six books.

Can an aroma change your state of mind? Of course it can. Without a lot of explanation we all know this, as we have experienced it. Have you ever had someone sit next to you on a bus that hadn't showered in a while? Did your frame of mind stay as positive as it had been? Probably not. This isn't just true of aroma. All senses can affect your frame of mind. Visualize the image of a baby or monster. Visualize a loud startling noise or the sound of the ocean, Visualize being punched or massaged, Visualize the taste of your favorite dessert or your least favorite food. It is likely that your visualization affected your mood or your state of mind.

Your state of mind is your mood or mental state at a particular time. Your state of mind has changed slightly from now until now. Your state of mind is the lens you put on by which all your conscious thoughts filter thru and are affected by. Your state of mind is the experience you are perceiving created by the exact pattern of neurons firing in your brain right at this moment. Every sensory organ is sending new data into the mind that links up with the patterns that are already going on in that moment and changes those patterns by their very introduction. The more time any pattern exists it becomes easier for the brain to trigger that pattern in the future. I would love to expand on this concept at length on a future date. The take away thought is that if you purposefully provide yourself with a sensory stimuli you will cause neurons to fire in that sensory system, which will cause neurons to fire in your brain, thus changing the patterns of neurons firing at that time which is your state of mind.

If any sensory perception can change your state of mind why is aromatherapy a big deal? Well, it is passive, permeates the whole room, and doesn't mental distract. You could put a nice painting on the wall, but you would not always look at it and it is hard to change out when you want a different mood. You could get a massage, but it is hard to get a full time masseuse to follow you around all day. Playing music works for all the same criteria as aroma, but I personally find music playing distracting when I'm concentrating and therefore prefer silence. If you are not distracted by music, by all means play a happy tune. You could constantly fill your mouth with chocolate, but we all sadly know this is not a good idea. Placing a nice aroma in the room puts out the sensory stimulus in a way that is not distracting and that the recipients don't need to actively participate in.

The sense of smell is particularly linked into to the memory and learning centers of the brain. We have probably all experienced a case where a particular smell we caught unexpectedly brought back a vivid memory from the different past. In this case the firing of the neurons connected to that smell were linked to the neuron pattern that was firing when the actual events were happening. Thus the smell triggers the neurons of that aroma that makes that previous pattern it was linked to fire again and we remember.  This is an illustration of how powerfully an aroma can connect to a particular neural network. Taking a deep whiff of an aroma can make the network of neurons connected to that aroma fire. The firing of that pattern changes the overall pattern of the firing of the neurons in your brain. The new pattern that is currently in your brain now is your state of mind. Thus aroma can change your state of mind in a powerful way.

After spinning around in circles on all the ideas for one week, I opened a bottle of Notagmo Lavender Oil, took a deep relaxing breath and started to type. I was breathing in Lavender and typing this article.  I'm finished now and it feels good.  Aromatherapy for a better state of mind, indeed.

-Jason

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