The Science of Aromatherapy: How to Manage Your Moods and Emotions

What do you turn to when you’re stressed, sad or angry?

A few of my favorite vices were double-stuffed Oreos, stuffed crust pizza from Pizza Hut, and Busch Lite. I know, not even quality junk food (if there is such a thing).

When we’re in a bad mood and our emotions are down, it’s easy to turn to things that are bad for us. The sugar or alcohol delivers a short-lived numbing hit that often leaves us feeling worse.

How to manage your moods & emotions with aromatherapy

There’s another option out there that can help us to avoid suppressing those negative feelings and, instead, overcome them. Rather than pushing them away or sedating ourselves with sugar or even Netflix, we can face our moods and learn to manage them, all without the negative side effects of sugary toxins, weight gain or hangovers.

It’s called aromatherapy.

You may have heard about using essential oils to heal tummy aches, burns or cuts, but did you know these natural gifts can also help us manage our moods? Here’s how emotional aromatherapy works.

Scents and Our Emotions

On a recent rainy day when I was walking Yoshi, the smell of an outdoor grill filled the air. I was pretty pissed off about the rain, but the grill smell immediately brought a smile to my face. The smell alone brought to mind a memory of a 4th of July cookout with my husband and our friends. It brought the feeling of warm air and sunshine. For a moment, I forgot about the stupid rain and thought of a happier scene.

Yoshi seemed pretty happy about the smell, too. Go figure.

Mom, I smell burgers!

We all have memories and emotions associated with certain scents, which is why aromatherapy can help us balance our emotions.

Several systems of the body are involved in the emotional process – the gut, the immune system, and the brain to name a few. The body releases different chemicals in response to emotions, making us feel more energetic when we’re happy and possibly sick when we’re stressed. Components of various essential oils can affect each one of these systems.

Aromas and essential oils are introduced to our bodies through our olfactory senses. The amygdala receives the scent and instantly triggers an emotional response before we’ve actually figured out what the smell is. Neurotransmitters from the brain send messages to our bodies, triggering cell activity.

Emotional stress triggers the release of stress hormones. When painful emotions are stored in the body too long, they can manifest as physical inflammation. This is why I was getting stomach aches day after day for years – I had so much anxiety bottled up that was manifesting in my gut.

Our moods are determined by the chemical impact of our emotions and other substances we introduce to our body, like aromas, drugs, sugar, etc.

This is why those damn double-stuffed Oreos are so addicting. They release a chemical hit that makes you feel good.

This is also why Lavender essential oil helped me to relax those anxious feelings.

natural flowers

What’s the difference between those two things? One made me feel like crap, physically and emotionally after the chemical hit. The other made me feel relaxed, physically and emotionally. One contributed to my weight gain which contributed to prolonged the cycle of self-hatred, guilt and shame. The other promoted a sense of peace in my body.

I know which one I’d rather use for the long term.

Essential oils can powerfully influence our emotions with healthful results. They can help us restore balance and healthy function in the body.

For example, if someone is experiencing low self-esteem on a regular basis (not fun), they’re likely feeling a sense of despair and self-judgment. They’re feeling hopeless, afraid that no one will accept them. Bergamot essential oil has a cleansing effect on stagnant feelings and limited belief systems. The powerful cleansing properties generate movement in energy, bringing hope to someone who feels hopeless.

If this person began diffusing Bergamot regularly, she’d experience more optimism, self-love and confidence. With the memory of this scent, she then has the potential to react to experiences that once made her feel unworthy with more acceptance. Scents can create a powerful influence over our thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

How to Release Negative Emotions with Aromatherapy

When I was in college I went on an anti-depressant. It worked – I had more energy, I felt better, I got out of bed and hung out with friends.

Then I stopped taking it.

I didn’t slip back into depression by any means, but the negative feelings of associating my body weight with my self-worth were still there on a different level. I was terrified of slipping back into an eating disorder, of gaining the weight back and hating myself again.

That fear stayed with me for much of my 20s. I hadn’t realized this before I started getting into the science of essential oils, but I truly did drop this fear for good around the time I started using them, which is amazing to me now.

Anti-depressants treat a symptom. They don’t help you to mentally work through the thoughts and emotions that cause you pain, so when you go off them, you’re likely to have to deal with the issues all over again. The same goes for other forms of self-medication, a.k.a. Oreos, pizza and booze. They numb your feelings for a short time.

We need to feel and experience our emotions to be able to resolve them. I buried my anxiety for a long time, but I needed to feel those emotions and give them an outlet so I could overcome it, to not let it take over my life.

When you start using essential oils, you may actually notice these negative feelings more than ever…at first. As the oils work on our physical health, our bodies start feeling good and want our emotions to feel good with it. The body has to release the negative energy to find balance.

The healing and transformation take place when those negative emotions surface and you work to let them go. The oils help us to feel, and you have to ride it out to permanently heal. You have to let go of the negative before receiving the positive. Essential oils create the atmosphere in your body for the healing process to take place. They assist in the process, but you have to put in the work.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was doing other stress-relief techniques while diffusing oils to help relieve the stomach aches my anxiety was giving me. Thought-provoking activities like journaling and meditation can help you sort out these feelings and overcome these personal issues.

A Healthy Stress-Relief Ritual

I challenge you to try out and adapt to a healthier ritual when you’re stressed, sad, upset or angry. Instead of turning to your usual vice, turn to:

  • Essential oil(s) of choice (I personally like blending Lavender, Clary Sage and Eucalyptus)
  • Pen and paper. Journaling about painful emotions can help lessen the intensity of those feelings.
  • Music – try something calming to relax, like Norah Jones, or something upbeat to lift your mood. A little MJ always works for me 😉
  • Your own breath. Take a few deep breaths – count to 5 as you inhale, hold for 5, then exhale to the count of 5. Repeat!
  • Perhaps you have a pet? Petting your dog releases dopamine, and, unless you have allergies, no negative side effects.

Do these things regularly to work through all kinds of emotions, even positive ones. These techniques combined with feel-good scents can help you react better to stress and negative emotions. It can’t possibly be worse than feeding your body mind-numbing toxins, so why not give it a try?

Want to get started with essential oils but not sure where to start? Contact me to and I’ll help you get started!

What negative emotions are you holding onto? Leave a comment and I’ll let you know which essential oil can help!

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