Think about the days you spent at the beach as a child. What sort of moments do you remember? Are there particular scents that instantly transport you back to those carefree days of summer? It can be difficult to put a name to the scent of the beach: the salty smell of the sea, warm sand under your toes, and a mixture of sunscreen and tanning oil. Then, as an adult, it can be difficult to take off to the beach whenever you desire. By bringing the scent of the beach into your home, you can have a moment of peace whenever you wish.
Mimicking the scent of the beach is no small feat, yet it can be done with essential oils. By diffusing a mix of oils whose scents remind you of carefree summer days, you can trigger pleasant memories that instantly boost your mood by providing some much-needed relaxation.
The Power of Olfactory Memory
Catching a whiff of a particular scent can instantly bring back powerful memories. Have you ever been transported back to your past via the scent of a warm apple pie or freshly cut grass? Perhaps it was the scent of your grandmother’s perfume or the scent of cigar smoke.
In a 2004 study published in Chemical Senses, adults were given olfactory, auditory, and visual cues and then asked to recall memories that were triggered by those cues. The study found that scent-induced memories were much older than those triggered by sound or visual cues. Other studies have found that adults can remember twice as many memories if they are associated with a particular scent.
The brain plays a key role in the association of scents with memories. The amygdala is the part of the brain that is responsible for emotions, behavior, and motivation. Additionally, the amygdala is located very close to the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory. Both the amygdala and hippocampus are a part of the limbic system, which controls emotions and memory, among other things. Interestingly enough, the sense of smell is the only sense that is directly linked to the limbic system.
This close link between the olfactory system and limbic systems is why scent-induced memories are often much more powerful than memories cued by other senses. This is also why the scent of the sea can instantly make you feel relaxed while looking at a photo of a beach doesn’t elicit the same emotional response.
What Does the Beach Smell Like Anyway?
You know the scent—the slightly briny scent of salt, heat, ocean air, and vegetation. Everyone recognizes it, yet it is so difficult to describe.
Believe it or not, scientists have actually figured out what gives the ocean its distinctive scent. This soothing scent comes from a gas known as dimethyl sulfide (DMS) produced by ocean-dwelling bacteria. These bacteria consume decaying material such as seaweed and release this odorous gas. Interestingly enough, birds flock to this scent for food as it indicates a plankton bloom. This gas also plays a role in cloud formation. Not very romantic, is it?
For most people, the scent of the sea is a bit more mysterious and romantic. It's the scent of damp pages of a good book, the smell of sunscreen massaged into a warm body, and the fresh scent of the ocean air. There’s also a certain something to it that can’t be described. You need to experience it for yourself to understand.
The scent of the sea also includes the scent of the land around it. The fresh breeze that accompanies a peaceful morning on the shore brings the scents of all the surrounding vegetation. Other scents that make you feel like you're on the beach have nothing to do with the scent of the sea itself.
Based on your own experiences as a child and the particular beach you frequented, the scents that bring you back to these days at the beach can vary widely.
Some of these powerful memory-inducing scents include:
- Sunscreen slathered on your body from head to toe
- Tanning oil heated by the sun
- A campfire on the beach
- A cocktail
- Fried food on the boardwalk
- Damp pages in an old book
- Aloe vera gel
- Honeysuckle flowers
Other scents include the sweet scent of ice cream melting in a cone, the bright, fresh scent of tropical fruit, and the piney scent of a rugged beach in the Pacific Northwest.
Using Essential Oils to Bring the Scent of the Beach Home
Many people don’t live close enough to a beach to make a weekly, monthly, or even yearly trip. So, when you’re craving the scent of the sea and don’t have the time for a vacation, what can you do? Luckily, essential oils can recreate your favorite beach scents and make you feel like you're on a beach vacation—even when you’re still in the comfort of your own home.
Also referred to as sea pine or maritime pine, ocean pine essential oil is distilled from pine trees that are native to the Mediterranean coast. The scent is floral, woodsy, and balsamic. This oil alone contains terpenes that can help calm feelings of stress and anxiety and cleanse the air. If this oil alone is so powerful, imagine how therapeutic a custom blend of oils can be.
Ideas for Ocean-Inspired Blends
Diffusing essential oils throughout your home can instantly transport you back to pleasant memories of the past. Depending on your particular blends, you can stir up memories of summer camping trips, walks through meadows of wildflowers, or relaxing trips to the beach.
The particular blends you choose will depend largely on the scents that most remind you of trips to the beach. Nostalgia has been shown to counteract feelings of boredom, loneliness, and anxiety. By creating your own custom blend of scents that bring back pleasant memories, you can instantly improve your mood and overall well-being.
And remember, if you're looking to bring the scent of the ocean wherever you go, make sure to take with you an ocean inspired essential oil blend.
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