Style/ Beauty

These Perfumes Are What Happy People Smell Like, Say Scientists

The key to happiness might be right under our noses – literally – thanks to a new raft of perfumes that combine a rush of mood-boosting notes with neurochemistry.  Claims over the effect of scent on our emotions – lavender calms, citrus energises – have been knocking around for decades. But the latest iterations are more luxe than aromatherapy and born in laboratories rather than dusty ateliers. 

Let’s take a step back for a moment, though. Does happiness really have a scent? On a primal level, yes. The smell of your body is a snapshot of how you’re feeling as it’s hardwired to engage in ‘emotional sweating’. In fact, researchers from Utrecht University have unearthed so-called ‘chemosignals’ that are virtually odourless and secreted by apocrine glands (a type of sweat gland), that are sensitive to emotions and stress. 

Put simply, if you’re feeling happy, you naturally smell a certain way. Better still, there’s some evidence that these chemosignals can stimulate the same emotion in others who catch a whiff of them.

Likewise, a perfume can trigger a subconscious reaction of enjoyment, relaxation or happiness. All perfumes are made up of scent molecules, which enter the limbic system in our brain, where our feelings are processed and our memories are stored. What we sniff can also mean neurotransmitters – feel-good chemicals – such as serotonin and dopamine are released.

But that’s not all. “When we smell something pleasant it may trigger a happy memory,” says Nicola Pozzani, the creative director of Merchant of Venice fragrances, adding that “citrus scents are particularly uplifting, largely because they convey seasonality (summer) and landscape (Mediterranean), both of which remind us of holidays.” 

Another example is vanilla. If you baked with your mother or grandmother when you were little, the smell of vanilla often summons comfort and, even now, whips you back to the safety of that childhood kitchen. 

So don’t overlook the power of perfume to prop you up when you need sweet relief. Gone are the days when a waft of Poison barrelled through the lift doors with the sole purpose of making you smell as expensive as a fabulous piece of jewellery. Today, perfumes are more nuanced mood boosters. 

“We’re looking for a deeper connection,” says Flo Glendenning, vice president of product and sustainability at The Nue Co. “Using the olfactory system as a highway to the brain is the fastest way to impact how you feel.” Ergo, the brand’s latest fragrance Water Therapy is based on blue medicine: the belief that spending time near water positively impacts our mental health.

According to marine biologist Wallace J Nichols, who coined the phrase the ‘Blue Mind’, the sight, sound and feeling of water creates a flood of neurochemicals. These, in turn, stimulate alpha brain waves and the parasympathetic nervous system to put us in a more relaxed, meditative state. 

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