Lemon among the 7 Scents That Boost Productivity And Help You Focus—Even When You’re Exhausted

Get a whiff of this: Breathing in certain smells can fire up your focus and make your 9 to 5 way better. “Scents have a powerful effect on the brain and can give us an instant boost in productivity and focus,” says Cary Caster, Certified Clinical Aromatherapist.

That’s because the right aromas can amp up alertness, boost brainpower and even squash anxiety. So whether you have a big presentation or a speech to memorize, we have a scent for you!


The wise men were onto something with frankincense, a scent that’s long been used to relax an overactive mind. “The essential oil contains numerous sesquiterpenes which oxygenate and stimulate the limbic system, the seat of our memory and emotions, to improve memory retention and clarity of thinking,” says Caster. The woody aroma could relax you too. A study published in the journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology found that burning frankincense could have a Prozac-like effect on the brain by activating anti-depressive pathways and lowering anxiety.


Doing a complicated crossword or taking a tough test? Sniffing the citrusy scent could be just what your mood and motivation need. Research from Ohio State University found that sniffing lemon improved people’s moods and raised levels of norepinephrine, a brain chemical linked to executive decision-making and motivation. Another study found that students exposed to a citrus-scented cleaner were more likely to clean up after themselves, while in a Japanese study the scent of lemon improved typing accuracy, with workers making 54% fewer errors.


Not only does breathing in jasmine trigger feel-good beta waves in the brain, it can speed up your reaction time. According to a study done by the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, baseball players who wore jasmine-scented armbands hit the ball better than those wearing non-scented bands, while also enjoying an improved mood. Other studies have linked jasmine to feeling simultaneously switched on and serene, an ideal head space for meetings and interviews.


Trying to memorize a speech? Reach for rosemary. The herb has been found to increase concentration and memory while dialing down stress. According to research by Dr. Mark Moss, head of the department of psychology at Northumbria University, inhaling the aroma of rosemary essential oil improved speed and accuracy during demanding mental tasks, and increased memory test scores by more than 10%. “Memory is tied to the limbic system, which associates scent with memories, so inhaling oils when one is studying or reviewing information for a presentation is an added advantage,” adds Caster.


Invite peppermint to your next brainstorming session. “The uplifting oil is well known for its ability to awaken and refresh the mind, aiding in focus and mental clarity,” says Caster. It can also get you through your commute and workday with less fatigue and frustration. One study found that the scent of peppermint cut annoyance in drivers, while another study found that it reduced mental fatigue and burnout.


Wake up and smell the coffee… or is it smell the coffee and wake up? A study published in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that just breathing in coffee’s bitter scent could reverse the effects of sleep deprivation on the brain and bust stress. When sleep-deprived rats were exposed to coffee bean aroma, genes connected associated with stress-reduction were activated—no sipping required.

Try this: Make a DIY coffee scrub for your morning shower (combine 1 cup coffee grounds, ½ cup sugar and 3 tablespoons coconut oil), and keep a jar of coffee beans on your desk.

Source: Gary Caster

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