Keeping focus during work can be challenging, especially when you work remotely. Fortunately, there are scents that will help keep you focused and stimulated, and this article highlights six of the best scent for office.
Aromas have been used in spiritual and health practices for thousands of years in cultures like India and China for a range of disorders, including:
- Migraines and headaches
- Anxiety and Depression
- Generalized Pain
The practice of using aromas to treat a variety of disorders is called aromatherapy, which involves inhaling or massaging essential oils and other compounds into the skin.
In the west, aromatherapy is a common treatment in alternative medicine, but Westerners often discount the approach as being ineffective and unscientific, in general. However, the scientific data clearly demonstrates otherwise. In fact, numerous studies identify the link between scents and moods.
Specifically, fragrances can cross the blood-brain barrier, where they directly impact brain functioning. The olfactory receptors also receive them in the brain and impact pulse rate, blood pressure, brain activity, and the pupils. The result of this exposure is an improved mood, a sense of calm, and increased cognitive ability.
How Scents Relate to Memories (Good or Bad)
Have you ever smelled something that reminded you of a pleasant memory? Perhaps every time you smell a freshly baked apple pie, you think of family Christmas gatherings at grandma’s house. Your brain doesn’t just recall a memory. It also remembers how you experienced memory, good or bad. One person may experience scent-induced memory as highly pleasant, comforting, and joyous. For someone who experienced abuse during Christmas at grandma’s, the scent may trigger intense anxiety and fear.
The olfactory system connects with the hippocampus, the thalamus, and the prefrontal cortex, which are parts of the brain that hold both memory and emotion. The connections between these parts of the brain and the olfactory system’s stimulation by different scents recreate an experience that includes both the memory and the felt emotion assigned to it. Lavender generally causes relaxation. However, if someone experienced a traumatic event, and the scent of lavender was present at the time, that person may have the opposite reaction to the scent. Thus, what is helpful to you may or may not be helpful to someone else.
Brain Waves (and Why They’re Important in Aromatherapy)
Activity in the brain is observed through brain waves, which are basically electrical pulses. There are five different types of brain waves. Typically, the lower the frequency, the slower the activity, and the higher the frequency, the more alert someone is. Here is a breakdown of each type of brain wave:
Delta. The lowest frequency brain wave is involved with sleep.
Theta. Also found in sleep and deep meditation, these brain waves are sometimes tied to fears and anxieties.
Alpha. This is the brain’s calm state, and it is often tied to well-being and the ability to take in and integrate new information.
Beta. Beta waves present a heightened state of awareness and alertness. Whereas alpha waves allow you to take in new information, listen, and learn, beta waves allow you to process actively and do something with that data, such as solve a problem with critical thinking, actively concentrate, and make decisions. This is where much of the executive functioning occurs.
Gamma. The highest frequency waves can be observed in heightened states of awareness, such as a spiritual experience, a focused effort on memory recall, or a hypnotic state.
Examples of Scents That Impact Brain Waves
Different scents impact the middle three brain waves to varying degrees. The table below illustrates some examples.
|Scent||Brain Wave||What’s This Mean?|
|Jasmine, Lavender, Lemon||Increase |
|Reduced anxiety and an increased sense of calm, relaxation.|
|Increases the ability to take in new information helps with the response to pain.|
|Reduced mental state, decreased heart rate.|
|Jasmine, Ylang-ylang, Rose, Peppermint||Decrease |
|It helps to soothe and calm, slows the sympathetic nervous system.|
As you can see from the table, scents range in their impact on both the brain and the physiological impacts to a person, and they produce measurable results.
Getting Back To Work
You may or may not have enjoyed that little tutorial on brain functioning and how aromatherapy can impact moods and physiological functions, but it is important information to have. Hopefully, your alpha waves are firing effectively because we have more to cover. Let’s now shift to specific scents and focus on the top six for promoting effective work habits and concentration.
Good for: Alertness and memory.
Rosemary, which you probably have stored in your kitchen spice rack, is a great way to kick of Monday morning, especially if you’re one who often has a case of the Mondays. With its combined benefits of increased alertness and improved memory, it does wonder to prepare you for an important meeting or brainstorming session. Not only does rosemary kick up your alertness and memory, but it also helps prevent mental fatigue. And, because this is such a common kitchen herb, you can use the herb in addition to the essential oil. Mix it in with potpourri or add it to a mixture of water and lemon and let it simmer away.
Lemon and Citrus
Good for: Alertness, accuracy, and response time.
Lemon has a distinct scent, and it may not surprise you that it improves alertness and cognitive functions. It also serves a dual purpose in supporting concentration and promoting a sense of calm. Guess what else, though? A study revealed that it also improved typing performance in terms of response time and accuracy. Participants improved accuracy ratings by a whopping 54%!
Citrus has similar effects and can be used in combination with or as a substitute for lemon. Take a whiff to help focus and recharge or let it waft through your office all day.
Good for: Memory, accuracy, and sustained attention.
Peppermint is on the list of one of the most studied aromatic plants, and it is a popular one during the holidays and throughout the year. Like lemon and citrus, the scent increases alertness. It also can boost your mood, generate energy, and sustain your focus over an extended period of time. Dab some on your wrist or make an air freshener spray and freshen the room before a marathon meeting session.
Good for: Calm, concentration, and rebooting.
People tend to think of lavender as something to add to a bath or tea when you want to sleep. While this is true, lavender has many benefits to your workday, too. You may think of scents that help during the workday as only those that promote alertness. However, many people struggle with being anxious and overstimulated, causing a decreased ability to focus. Lavender improves relaxation, helps you to recharge, and soothes emotional stress. It does this during work hours or by recharging the brain as you sleep, so it is effective for use during the day or at night.
Good for: Attention and analytical reasoning.
You didn’t think of this one, did you? Yes, coffee generates alertness when you drink it, and it also motivates you when you smell it. It improves brain functioning to improve analytical reasoning and problem-solving. While coffee is already well-known as a morning motivator for many, the scent of the coffee alone works to enhance analytical reasoning and improves task-related reasoning skills. Wafting the smell throughout your office can help keep employees alert as well as help them problem solve. Don’t take our word for it; check out this study.
Good for: Attention and response time.
It’s a great time of year to add cinnamon to the mix! Cinnamon has been found to increase performance and improve attention. Plus, it’s easy to incorporate with actual cinnamon sticks, air furnace filters, and store products.
How To Improve the Efficacy of Aromatherapy
The more pure and concentrated a scent is, the more impact it has, which is why essential oils are so popular. Synthetic scents don’t demonstrate the same outcomes as concentration scents and compounds. Speaking of compounds, don’t be afraid to mix scents to produce a new scent that is both pleasing and effective. Have fun with it!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this list of ways to use aromatherapy to maximize your workday productivity. What scent works best for you?