How to Kick Bad Habits with Our Powerful Sense of Smell

Overall, I'm a fan of utilizing the sense of smell, which taps into a different, older part of the brain than visual or aural encouragements or clues. Why the sense of smell?

Our olfactory senses are actually housed within the limbic system, the parts of our brain that deal with memory and emotions. So by using the sense of smell, we can affect our memories and emotions! How can we harness this to change habits?

When essential oils are inhaled through the nose, aromatic molecules are carried through the lining of the nasal cavity by tiny olfactory nerves, located in the roof of the inner nose, to the part of the brain called the limbic system. This limbic system in turn influences the endocrine system and the autonomic nervous system. 

Because smell information is sent to different parts of the brain, odors can influence many aspects of our lives, such as memory, mood, and emotion. For thousands of years, fragrant plants have been used in healing practices across many cultures, including ancient China, India, and Egypt. Aromatherapy, for example, aims to use essential oils from flowers, herbs, or trees to improve physical and emotional well-being. memories of smell can be vivid and long lasting, which may have a positive effect.  Scents are powerful—they can transport us to different places, remind us of people, and trigger memories long forgotten. We can also harness this powerful sense of smell to help us kick toxic habits and ingrain new, better habits.

3 Ways to Harness Our Powerful Sense of Smell to Kick Bad Habits:

1. Associate the new habit with a pleasant smell.
Anecdotal research shows that people with good habits (like exercising) associate certain happy, energizing smells (like peppermint) with the habit they are trying to create to help their brain and body enjoy the new habit. This makes the habit easier to keep when the going gets tough, as we all know it will. By anticipating those hard days and proactively reminding the limbic system that the new habit is a happy one, this helps us look forward to it more and allows our body to create positive memories associated with the habit.

2. Help the body relax before tackling a difficult habit to break.
We all know that toxic stress prevents us often from seeking the life we truly desire, and often this comes in the form of picking up unhealthy habits. By using smells to calm and relax our bodies while trying to break a bad habit, we're less likely to return to the bad habit out of our stress response. After all, isn't that why we started the bad habit in the first place? It will often take more than sheer willpower to break a bad habit if we don't change the surrounding circumstances at all.

3. Replace the bad habit with a alternative, positive one.
This is often given as a tool to help people break habits like smoking, for example. Some people recommend an alternative activity like gum chewing. I would agree with this idea, but I'd like to add that there ARE ways we can harness our powerful sense of smell to make this process even easier. If we continue with the smoking habit, for example, black pepper essential oil has been shown to decrease the withdrawal symptoms and make quitting easier from an emotional as well as physical standpoint. There are many, many examples like this where the power of smell has aided in replacing a toxic habit with a positive one.

The whole reason we want to use quality essential oils is that we want to really break the bad habit without anything harmful. Not all essential oils are created equal... You can’t just go out to a big box store (or anywhere online) and trust that you’re getting the good stuff! (My sensitive body learned that the hard way...) Lucky for you, I’ve got a source I trust – want to know more? Click the button in the top corner to get in touch. :)


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