People, Places, and Things

The psychology of design: How to create an environment in which you will thrive

Stuffy Home => Better Home

Put the scents that fill your home to work for you.

For most of us, the windows in our homes have been closed for months – air conditioners have been running in the Northern Hemisphere and furnaces in the southern half of the world. All that heating and cooling means our homes are stuffy and we’re using air fresheners, potpourri, you name it, to make our homes smell better. With all the scent options at your disposal, which smells should fill your home?

Scientific research, mainly in psychology and biology, links certain smells to particular psychological effects among people, in general. You can use what scientists have learned in your own home to create spaces that work for you and help you achieve your important goals.

Researchers have learned, for example, that the smells of:

  • Orange reduces anxiety – and the scent of cedar, vanilla, and lavender reduce tension, too.
  • Lemon and jasmine seem to help us do a better job on cognitive tasks. What’s a cognitive task? Doing a crossword puzzle or studying for an exam are examples. People smelling lemon also seem to feel better physically.
  • Cinnamon-vanilla odors have been linked to enhanced creativity.
  • Peppermint makes exercise sessions seem easier and less frustrating, according to research done by Bryan Raudenbush at Wheeling Jesuit University. Smelling peppermint while you work has also been linked to feeling better about how your workout’s going – so slather on peppermint lotions to feel like a star.
  • Jasmine scents in the room where you’re sleeping will improve the quality of your sleep and also enhance your mental performance the next day – although they won’t help you fall asleep faster. Raudenbush also unearthed this effect.
  • Rosemary and grapefruit odors energize us – and provide other benefits as well. Rosemary scents also have been associated with improvements in how our long-term memory works and men who smell grapefruit estimate that women in view are considerably younger than their chronological age.

 We don’t need to be aware of scents for them to work their magic. So scent, and relax, or think creative thoughts, or exercise with ease, or . . . .

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Sally Augustin, Ph.D., is a practicing environmental psychologist who studies person-centered design and sensory science.

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