Friday, February 3, 2012

Homemade Aromatherapy

It's amazing to me the extent to which aroma can so profoundly impact my mood/memories. Before my brain can even recognize what's happening, the smell of a pina colada snowcone puts me onto a rubber mat at an old cement waterslide in Sunset, LA (where I lived as a child) with Ronnie Milsap playing on the loud speaker.

Aerosol hairspray fumes transport me right back into my 80's cheerleading days when the only thing bigger than my ridiculous shoulder pads was my infinitely more ridiculous permed and teased hair.

And the festive smell of pine envelopes me immediately in all things Christmas, taking me back to year after year of adventures in choosing the perfect REAL Christmas tree for the living room of my childhood.

The gift of smell is a powerful thing indeed. For most of my life, I've largely left these situations entirely up to chance. Meaning, if I happened to get a whiff of one of those smells, I would enjoy the moment briefly, but it never took long to move on and forget about it pretty quickly. Those moments are still great fun--the times when a scent takes me by surprise and walks me down memory lane. But recently I decided that if something so simple can bring such joy, why would I not be more deliberate about it? Right?

And so. . .  I'm creating my own mental library of homemade versions of aromatherapy, and so far I'm loving the results. These are some of my favorites:

Lemon: When I need a little boost or just a spark of energy, this works every time. I challenge anyone to be in a blah mood while zesting a lemon. I bet you can't do it. I can't.

Ginger: Grating fresh ginger has almost a spa effect on me. So yummy. Makes me take long, refreshing, deep breaths and savor the moment.

Coffee: Oddly, this smell has the opposite effect on me than it does on most other people. While for most I'm told it is a call to wake up, for me it triggers a moment to relax. I'm guessing this comes from my years and years of work in corporate retail, during which stepping away from my desk for a few minutes to pour a cup of coffee was my only escape from the hundreds of emails and stacks of paperwork I was facing each day. I still use coffee that way. Rather than pour myself a cup first thing in the morning, I'm much more likely to get up and knock out a list of chores and save my coffee for a break after getting the work done. Probably kind of silly, but it works for me. ;-)

Roast: If ever I'm feeling homesick, you can bet roast will be on the menu soon. Something about the smell of a roast in the oven or crock pot all day conjures up some of my favorite family moments. A roast always meant one of two things when I was young--either we were all home to relax and enjoy the day together playing games, doing puzzles, etc. OR someone special was coming over. Either way, it always meant a fun day spent with people who loved me and I them. I wonder if my girls will feel the same way. There's something about serving up a meal of roast with all the fixin's that makes it more of an event than just a meal.

Lavendar: I'm not sure I can think of anything more relaxing than the smell of freshly clipped lavendar floating in a warm bath, which is why I always have at least one big bush of it growing somewhere in my yard.  So much better than Calgon. ;-)

Bacon: I'm sure this doesn't need much explanation. But in addition to smelling amazingly delicious (which is enough to make me happy), bacon tends to say ADVENTURE. As in--a Saturday morning with no schedule that lets you have a nice breakfast and then just go where the day takes you. Love it!

Cinnamon: Certainly, it's yummy any time of year, but since it is a spice that tends to be more prevalent during the holidays, cinnamon almost always puts me in a festive mood. It makes me want to craft and bake and crochet and maybe even shop a little.

Vanilla: Something about vanilla signifies clean to me. It's one of my favorite candle scents, and I developed a habit a long time ago of lighting a candle after cleaning my house. So something about vanilla makes me want to curl up with a book or a movie, knowing that the chores are done, and I can sit still for a little while with no guilt. I like that.

Rosemary: This one is a bit of a mixed bag that can trigger a number of different things, but all good. Sometimes it has that "someone special is coming to dinner" effect kind of like a good roast. Other times, it has more of a spa effect like a an herb-infused facial or body lotion. And then other times it's similar to the ginger effect. Nothing specific--just makes me slow down and take some good deep breaths so I don't miss the glorious fragrance while I'm chopping it for whatever recipe I'm working on.

Bread: This is weird, especially since I tend to bake more in the winter than in the summer, but something about the smell of baking bread puts my mind in summertime, with the sun shining in through open windows in every room while a gentle breeze circulates the scrumptious smell throughout the entire house. Makes me want to be barefoot in my kitchen and elbow-deep in flour.

Those are some of my favorite smells and a bit about the effect they have on me. What are some of yours? I'm adding to my list all the time. Maybe some of your energizing, relaxing, or nostalgic scents will have the same impact on me. I'd love to try!

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