8 Smells That Can Make You Happier, According to Science

Updated: Sep. 29, 2017

The key to happiness might be right under your nose.

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Research has found that this festive aroma, often associated with the winter holidays, helps to reduce stress. A study conducted at Japan’s Kyoto University took a deeper look at a Japanese custom of taking a soothing forest stroll known as shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” and found that depression and anxiety were significantly reduced in participants on days when they walked through the country’s pine-filled woods. Don’t miss these other ways nature is medicine for your brain.

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If you’re in need of a pick-me-up, try sniffing some citrus. The smell of the vitamin C-packed fruits has been shown to boost energy and alertness, and studies have revealed that lemon scents in particular can reduce stress and leave a positive impression on others. (Here are 8 more ways to make a good impression.) Thanks to over 50 years of advertising and marketing campaigns for household cleaners like Joy dish soap, we tend to associate citrus smells as clean and pleasant. Learn how to clean with lemon instead of chemicals to make your whole home smell happy.



If the smell of sunscreen reminds you of bright beach days and tropical getaways, you’re not alone. This scent’s positive effects are rooted in its association with stress-free vacation time, when you are typically more relaxed and happy than usual. Check out these other 50 tiny changes that will make you happier.

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Fresh-cut grass

Put mowing the lawn at the top of your to-do list, if only because researchers in Australia have found that a chemical released by freshly cut grass can cause people to become more relaxed and even feel joy. (Maybe we should add mowing the lawn to these 22 tricks for making every morning happier.) They’ve even bottled the scent into a spray-on fragrance. The smell is so powerful that is said to prevent mental decline as you age. Try these other 8 things you can do today for a healthier brain while you age.

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That saying about stopping to smell the roses? Maybe it should be changed to lavender or jasmine instead. Lavender is well-documented for its calming effects, even easing insomnia and depression (find out what really happens when you use lavender for stress relief), and jasmine also has been shown to boost moods. Check out these other 23 ways to lift your spirits instantly.



Primarily known as a flavor agent, rosemary has been shown to amplify brain power. (Here are 25 more brain-boosting foods to add to your diet.) Studies have found that the smell of the herb enhanced participants ability to remember complex events and tasks, and scientists say the research could lead the way to treating memory loss. Until they create that treatment, steal these habits of people with impressive memories.

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Oil from this little leaf is known for its ability to elevate your mood and stimulate your mind and body. (Here are 12 more ways to wake up happier every day.) Studies have even shown that athletes who smell peppermint have improved athletic performance and better breathing. Check out these other foods that can help you breathe better.


Baby powder

If you love the smell of baby powder, you might be having a nostalgic response. Experts say that the baby powder smell reminds us of the safety and security we felt as children; for parents, it invokes memories of the happiness they felt when their children were young. No matter what age you are, you can use these 10 tricks for having a happy weekend as a family.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest