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Holiday scents take you back

Published on Thursday, December 19, 2013

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Holiday scents take you back

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Family Features

The holiday season gives people the chance to take a break from their typically hectic lives to catch up with family and friends. Beyond the festive decorations, music and food that make this time of year so special, it's important to take a moment to enjoy the scents and the great feelings, memories and motivations that they inspire — especially while entertaining. Whether it's the smell of mom's homemade cookies or the woodsy allure of a fresh-cut tree, these smells have a remarkable way of boosting spirits. 

While the holiday season is an especially fragrant and emotional time of year, a new study shows that many people undervalue the positive impact scent can have on their daily lives. Forty-four percent of survey respondents said if they had to lose one of their five senses it would be smell. Yet, more than four out of five said they know from experience that scent can have a positive effect on mood. Those who are aware of the mood enhancing benefits of scent understand its important role during the holidays and beyond.

According to the study, the following scents were listed as those that most inspire happiness among the respondents questioned:

  • Freshly baked bread (72%)
  • Freshly laundered clothing (70%)
  • Briny smell of the seashore (66%)
  • Tang of a fresh-cut orange (63%)
  • Sweet bouquet of apple cinnamon (62%)
  • Warm scent of vanilla (60%)
  • Decadent smell of chocolate (59%)

"Scent is one of our most powerful senses. It brings more meaningful moments to our lives every day by allowing us to feel more, more often. This is especially relevant during the holidays — a time of year rich with fragrance, emotion and memories," says Rachel Herz, Ph.D., who has been researching the intersection of smell, emotion, perception, motivated behavior and cognition since 1990 and is the author of "The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell."

This winter, you can capture the moments and special memories of the holiday season by creating a warm environment for family and friends. Here are some tips to incorporate into your holiday entertaining preparations that will make your home perfect for an inviting gathering:

  • Evoke the senses through scent From the sweet fragrance of rich vanilla or the blend of winter berries and greenery, walking into a room with a seasonal scent instantly sets the mood, whether it's comfort and relaxation from warm vanilla or invigoration from wintry greens. A lit candle on a side table is always a lovely touch to your holiday decor.
  • Turn up memorable melodiesLike scent, music has a way of evoking feelings and memories. When looking for a playlist, choose music that speaks to childhood holidays. Or, delight older relatives with holiday classics they'll enjoy. If you have musicians in the mix, encourage them to bring their instrument and favorite holiday songbooks.
  • DIY decorAdding a cheery look to your home can be done without a trip to the craft or home decorating store. Simply fill large glass vases, metallic serving bowls or lanterns with brightly colored glass ornaments for gorgeous centerpieces that will illuminate the room. Add a sentimental touch by using decorations that have been passed down through generations.
  • Let it glowHaving the right amount of light is a must for any gathering. Be sure to have a room that is properly lit for guests to enjoy activities, while maintaining an inviting atmosphere. Everyone will love cozying up to a burning fireplace. If you don't have a fireplace, place candles around your space for an intimate feel. 
  • Serve treats that please the sensesGive guests a trip back in time to grandma's kitchen and bake up special treats that evoke the sense of nostalgia. Time your baking so the goodies are done right before the guests arrive to thoroughly enjoy lingering baking smells. Freshly baked gingerbread cookies, cinnamon apple cake or pumpkin pie are always sure to please.

This holiday season, encourage your guests to smell, feel and share their best feelings by creating an atmosphere that is warm, inviting and memorable — because nothing makes us feel quite like scent. 

Source: Glade

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