One of the things I like most about Christmas are all the smells. They take me back to memories of festive times, and that makes me happy. The woodsy smell of logs burning in the fireplace. Sugar and spice cookies, fresh out of the oven. Savory roasted turkey, when the button pops. The sharp peppermint of a candy cane. And my most favorite of all, a freshly cut Christmas tree.
Although it would be a lot easier and faster to get an artificial, pre-lit tree to put up for Christmas, I’ve never been able to bring myself to do it. It just isn’t Christmas to me without shed pine needles everywhere, pine sap globs somewhere, all made worthwhile by that glorious piney aroma. I love looking through the trees, taking my time to inspect them carefully, choosing by smell as well as looks. It may be a little goofy, but savoring these moments makes my life more precious.
I notice smells everywhere I go. Have you ever noticed when you get off the plane in Wichita, the air smells like soil? That’s part of how I know I’m home. Sort of like the smell called Petrichor, that earthy smell that happens when rain falls on dry soil. Another one of my favorites, tied to memories that go back to playing outside in the heat of the summer, when a sudden cloudburst drenched and cooled everything. No matter what city I go to, it always has it’s own distinct aroma. Some better than others. New York City smells of humanity. China Town in San Francisco, pungent and fishy. Colorado, the balsamic woods, but you already know that’s one of my favorites.
Isn’t it interesting how smells suddenly bring back memories? That’s because the place in our brain where we process aroma is right next to the place in our brain where we store them. When we smell something from the past, like a past love’s favorite cologne, it reminds us of them instantly. I’ve often found, during our Smart Scents: Relieving Stress with Aromatherapy class, people don’t like certain essential oils, based on their memories. For example, there was a student that gags when she smells peppermint, because it reminds her of when that happens when she brushes her teeth. Powerful. (That happens to me too, when I smell Ouzo. But not for the same reason!)
I’ve practiced being more tuned into my sense of smell, from the certification I received from Aveda’s Aromaology Academy. I went to Minneapolis twice for this six-month, self-study course, to learn to blend essential oils into beneficial perfumes and to pass the certification exam. It was an amazing experience. Studying the medical evidence, that shows the physical changes smelling essential oils (plant extracts) has on the body, made me a believer that aromatherapy is real and can help us feel better.
This is especially true when it comes to stress. There are aromas that are very calming to our senses, actually slowing down the breath and heartbeat. Other oils, increase respiration and heartbeat, making them more energizing to smell. Here are some essential oil suggestions:
Deeply calming: vanilla, vetiver and rose
Relaxing and balancing: lavender, chamomile and geranium
Mental clarity and focus: sandalwood, frankincense, clary sage
Refreshing and uplifting: citrus aromas (like orange, lime and bergamot), eucalyptus
Energizing: peppermint, rosemary, basil
(A Few Words of Warning: Always use essential oils in a carrier oil base. Never use undiluted oils on the skin. Never ingest essential oils. These are the extracts, so they’re very concentrated versions of the plants. If you’re allergic to any plants, you will be allergic to the oil as well. Please be thoughtful and knowledgeable in how you use these. While the risk is small, I don’t want you to get hurt.)
How aromaology is different than aromatherapy, is that we combine other wellness practices with aromatherapy to expand the benefits of both. For example, if you practice calming breathing techniques, while smelling a relaxing essential oil, you’ll be able to relax more deeply, faster. If you practice this enough, eventually you’ll be conditioned to relax simply by smelling the aroma.
Try this for yourself at our Just Breathe: Meditation for Joyful Living class on Thursday, December 14. Register for this class and I’ll email a little gift to you, “40 Uses for Essential Oils” that you can use to reduce stress in your life!
This fall, I had the pleasure of working with the team at Lucinda’s Old Town, to create two signature aromas that they had made into candles. It was so much fun! We got together, smelled a bunch of essential oils, then I created blends from their favorites. We couldn’t agree on just one, so we blended two aromas. Dawn is a fragrant floral citrus spice, using rose, orange and peppermint and other aromas. Dusk is an earthy forest spice, with notes of cedar, patchouli, vetiver, vanilla and more. I love them both! The big, soy candles sell for $24 and make a great Christmas gift!
Speaking of Christmas gifts! This seems like the appropriate time for a shameless plug for gifts from the Finishing School for Modern Women! Class gift certificates are $35 each and make great gifts, especially when you give your time with it, and attend a class together. Memberships are $45 a year and there’s never been a better time to be a member, for yourself or someone else. Besides the regular perks you normally receive, like a binder to organize your workbooks and reduced class pricing, it’s about to get even better. (I have a big, super exciting announcement coming soon!) Gift certificates and memberships are available on our website, or give me a call and I’ll mail them to you or your lucky loved one.
I can’t wait to tell you about our plans!