If you’ve ever walked past a bakery and heard your stomach growl, smelled the coconutty scent of sunscreen, and instantly felt warmer, or experienced prickles of anxiety from a whiff of that familiar “hospital” odor, you understand the transformative power of smell. Humans’ sense of smell has more control over their emotions than any other scent. While some are obvious, like the scents described in the first sentence, the vast majority of scent associations happen subconsciously. Once you understand the power of smell to trigger and even transform emotions, you can begin to appreciate how a whole house scent diffuser can improve the mood and well-being of everyone who enters your home.
The Physiology of Smell, Part 1: Anatomy
When you sniff a particular scent, receptors in your nose generate an impulse that travels along your olfactory nerve to the olfactory bulb in your brain. Your olfactory bulb processes this incoming impulse and distributes the information to other parts of your brain.
The olfactory bulb is nearest to and has direct, strong connections to the amygdala and the hippocampus. Together, these two brain areas are known as the limbic system, which is largely responsible for your memories, emotions, and associative learning. Other sensory information types, such as visual, tactile (touch), and auditory (sound) impulses, do not pass through the hippocampus or amygdala: Smell is the only human sensory system that is intimately linked to the limbic system. Consequently, it’s not surprising that smells have arguably the most significant power of any stimuli to trigger memories and affect human mood and emotion.
The Physiology of Smell, Part 2: Associative Learning
Your reaction to smells is biologically different than your reaction to other types of sensory information, such as sights or sounds. Due to the olfactory system’s direct connection to the limbic system, human reaction to smells is almost entirely associative. In other words, the primary way for you to react to a smell is by associating it with something else.
For example, the first time you smelled freshly cut grass, your brain associated that smell with all the other sensory markers at that moment: not just the visual of the grass, but also the way you felt standing in the warm sun, the sound of the lawnmower, and even your emotional state, such as whether you were happy to be outside or scared by the sound of the mower. All those factors are stored together as one piece in your brain, and all of them involuntarily and subconsciously surface whenever you smell freshly cut grass in the future.
Most of these kinds of associations are made very early in life, usually before you turn two years old and often before you have mastered other learning types. To use the cut grass example, your brain stored the sound of the lawnmower even if you were too young to know what a lawnmower was or where the sound was coming from. As a result, most of the specific associations triggered by a smell aren’t readily identifiable: instead, you know that the smell makes you feel happy or that you dislike the smell. This type of association-based identification of odors may explain why some people like a particular smell while others dislike the same scent.
The same goes for flavors because your olfactory receptors are also responsible for how you experience flavors in foods and drinks. It’s true! To test it yourself, try holding your nose while eating ice cream. You won’t tell what flavor the ice cream is, only that it tastes sweet. The taste buds on your tongue only identify whether something tastes sweet, sour, salty, or bitter. Taste buds do not provide any flavor information: That comes from your nose.
Olfactory associative learning is also part of why you might have an inexplicable “gut reaction” upon meeting certain people and is how dogs can be trained to smell certain diseases.
The takeaway from all this biology is that scents have tremendous potential to affect your mood, emotions, and overall mental state at a deep, subconscious level.
Your Home’s Signature Smell
Like it or not, many of the smells in your home are beyond your control. Even if you’re not actively scenting your house, your home already has a signature scent, and chances are, you aren’t aware of it. Everything that happens in your home contributes to this smell: foods, drinks, cooking smells, plants, pets, cleaning products, dish and laundry detergents, garbage and compost, dust, mold, perfumes or colognes, beauty and hygiene products, and sweat are just some of the factors that contribute to your home’s signature scent.
If reading that list made you cringe, not to worry. You still have the power to control the dominant scent in your house, the one that has the most significant effect on everyone who enters your home.
Because smell is such a powerful emotional trigger, you likely don’t want to leave your home’s signature scent up to chance. The second you step into your home, your olfactory receptors activate countless associations in your brain, even if you can’t consciously identify any particular smell. The wrong scents can make you feel instantly tired, angry, lonely, depressed, anxious, or stressed, without really knowing why.
Conversely, you can use the power of scent to your advantage. If the dominant scent in your home is one that evokes positive associations in your brain, then the right scent can ensure that you have an immediate sense of well-being, peace, joy, or other positive emotions every time you walk through the door. Thanks to associative learning, you can continue to reinforce these positive feelings by associating happy memories with the smell of your home.
Why Choose a Whole House Scent Diffuser
Given what you know about how scents affect emotions, it should come as no surprise that smell sets the overall tone for how you and others perceive and experience your home. A whole-house diffuser is an excellent way to use the power of smell to your advantage and to take control of the message your home is sending.
Traditional home scenting methods are acceptable in a pinch, but most have significant drawbacks. Scented candles, for example, are relatively inexpensive and widely available. However, each candle can only fill about 10 square feet with fragrance, so you’d need quite a few for a large room or an open floor plan. Open flames can be dangerous, so scented candles aren’t a good option if you have small children or curious pets. Because you can’t leave candles burning while you’re away, you won’t be able to come home to a scented house after a hard day of work.
Besides, most scented candles tend to give off a strong scent when they are first lit, but that scent weakens as the candle is burned. They also create smoke, which can trigger allergies for a surprising number of people. Incense and wax warmers have similar limitations, not to mention the mess involved with cleaning wax out of the holder.
A whole-house diffuser is different. These diffusers plug into your home’s HVAC system, using your existing ductwork to carry scent evenly and regularly to every part of your house. There is no flame, no smoke, and no hot wax on any surface of your home. The diffuser box is easy to install, and once set up, you insert a fragrance bottle into the box and let your home’s ductwork take care of the rest.
The diffuser’s settings allow you to adjust the scent’s strength to suit your family’s preference. You can choose to use the scent all the time, or just at certain times of the day or on certain days. What’s more, the diffuser connects to Wi-Fi or a mobile hotspot, so you can use a convenient mobile app to adjust the settings for a delightful-smelling home anytime you like.
The Immediate Benefits of Using a Whole House Scent Diffuser
When you take charge of creating a thoughtfully scented home, you and your family will notice and enjoy the pleasant smell right away. What you might not see at first are the mental and emotional benefits that result from the associative power of scent.
You already read about how scent affects your brain’s limbic system, which controls your emotions and memories. By consistently scenting your whole home, you train your brain to associate your preferred fragrance with your home. Within your brain, this smell will come to represent coming home, being comfortable, relaxing, being with your family, and a host of other lovely associations.
Gradually, these associations will become more firmly entrenched in your brain so that the smell itself can begin to trigger those positive emotions. As a result, you’ll find that you feel comforted and at ease the moment you walk through the door. Leaving work at work may become more manageable. You may find that you sleep better and wake up feeling more rested. Don’t be surprised if friends and guests start complimenting you on how great your home smells!
How To Select a Scent for Your Whole House Scent Diffuser
Now that you have a clear understanding of just how important scent is to your home, you need to choose a scent to create those comforting associations.
Diffusers work with fragrant blends of highly concentrated essential oils. While essential oils can be found in more retail outlets every day, not every seller offers a quality product. To ensure you’re getting a high-caliber scent, you want to purchase the essential oils for your whole-house diffuser from an industry professional rather than from your local grocery store. Look for oil blends that are free from phthalates, parabens, and other toxins. If you’re shopping online, look for a retailer that offers scent samples, as no description can accurately depict the way your brain will experience a fragrance. In other words, there’s no substitute for sniffing it yourself.
Next, understand how to read scent descriptions. High-end fragrance sellers typically describe their scent blends in terms of notes. Each fragrance consists of top, middle, and bottom notes. The top notes are the first things you smell. These are ordinarily light or fruity scents. Middle notes are deeper and more complex. These notes tend to linger longer than the top notes. Woody or floral scents are often middle notes. Bottom notes are usually the heaviest scents in the blend and tend to be the longest-lasting part of the scent. Spice, musk, and cedar are examples of scents that are typically featured as bottom notes.
Fragrance designers tend to use certain words to describe various scent profiles:
- Floral: As their name implies, floral scents smell like flowers.
- Woody: These scents tend to add a warm or masculine feel. Familiar woody scents are sandalwood or cedar.
- Sweet: This scent category is usually reminiscent of baked goods. Almond, vanilla, and cocoa are examples of sweet scents.
- Citrus: Citrus scents are bright and sunny, such as mandarin, lemon, and grapefruit.
- Spicy: These scents tend to feel warm and sensual. Ginger, cinnamon, pepper, and clove are examples of spicy scents.
- Green: Green scents are earthy, natural, leafy scents, such as grass, bamboo, or matcha.
- Fresh: These scents tend to feel crisp and clean, like winter air. Freshwater, sea breezes, and clean laundry are examples of fresh scents.
With a whole-house diffuser, you’re not limited to one smell year-round. Many people prefer to alternate scents between winter and summer months, and it’s hard to resist the draw of the distinctive aromas of the holiday season.
Smell is perhaps the most unique of the human sensory systems, and no other sense is so intimately connected with the brain’s emotion and memory centers. A whole house scent diffuser is a convenient and effective way to harness the incredible transformative power of smell. Whole Home Scenting offers both diffuser kits and various custom scent blends to help you experience the mood-boosting potential of a signature home scent.