How the Smells of Nature affect our Health and Happiness
The scents we encounter in nature can have a variety of beneficial effects on our general wellbeing.
According to the researchers’ paper, which was published in the Ambio journal, it is “well-established” that being close to nature has a positive impact on people’s wellbeing.
Our physical and mental health benefit from spending time in nature. For example, it can enhance our mood, lessen loneliness, and even enhance our physical health.
There haven’t been many studies that specifically examined the causes of this connection, though.
The researchers stated that “interacting with nature is a multisensory experience.” “Smells clearly have a significant impact, but there is still a significant knowledge gap in the relationship between nature, smell, and wellbeing.”
According to a news release from the University of Kent, the team’s study concentrated on how scents encountered in woodland settings during all four seasons can affect one’s well-being. 194 individuals in all took part in the study.
They were instructed to jot down the various aspects of the woodland they observed while participating in a “woodland scavenger hunt,” which they were informed they were doing.
The study’s findings revealed that smells have an effect on people’s emotional, spiritual, and cognitive states.
The most frequently mentioned factor, however, was physical well-being, particularly in terms of sensations of comfort, renewal, and relaxation.
For instance, one participant mentioned how they “just wanted to switch off for relaxation.”
According to the researchers, relaxation can lower cortisol levels and stress. High stress levels are “a significant global public health concern” and a risk factor for many diseases.
It’s interesting to note that better physical wellbeing was also correlated with the absence of urban odors.
“Really at ease. It’s lovely to just breathe in the fresh air. One participant reportedly said, “Clean out all the smog from the towns where you’ve been living.
Others noted the scents’ emotional effects, with one remarking that “for some reason, the smell of pine makes me happy.”
Additionally, scientists discovered a “strong link” between people’s individual memories and the smells they encounter in nature.
The smells still brought back memories of childhood activities, even though many of the participants’ memories weren’t even about woodlands.
For instance, one participant remembered helping their father in the garden on a fall Sunday morning because they could smell the “classic leaf mold smell.”
According to the researchers, people “appear to create meaningful connections with particular smells, rather than specific places, and associate this with a memorable event.” This, in turn, seemed to affect happiness by eliciting emotional responses to the memory.
Overall, the study showed how important smells are in delivering the health advantages of spending time in nature.
The scientists are urging other professionals to acknowledge the numerous advantages of a “multisensory natural environment” to our wellbeing.
According to study co-lead Dr. Jessica Fisher of the University of Kent, “the study provides findings that can inform the work of practitioners, public health specialists, policy-makers, and landscape planners looking to improve well-being outcomes through nature.” “Small interventions may have positive effects on public health.”