Scents and sensibility

On an excitement scale from zero to ten, I’m about an eleven right now.

It’s all because my work in mood-nudging has taken a fascinating turn.

If you have a good memory you may recall that earlier this year I started looking into the use of guided imagery as a way to lift emotional well-being.

In fact, lots of Moodnudgers experimented with some prototype recordings.

Since then, things have excitingly evolved to incorporate aromatherapy, specifically aromatherapy that automatically delivers a fragrance to you as you sleep.

Just before you drop off, this same fragrance surrounds you as you listen to a relaxing guided imagery recording.

It’s a fascinating combination. What seems to happen is that the repeated fragrance during your sleep helps to embed the positive suggestions you hear before you fall asleep.

And it all happens subconsciously. Work by psychologists in Germany showed that a similar schedule of night-time scent delivery boosted participants’ memories, and it was these findings that prompted me to wonder if a similar procedure might magnify the effects of guided imagery.

If you stop to think about it, I’m sure you’ve encountered the extraordinary connection between your memory and your sense of smell.

Maybe you’ve caught a whiff of some aroma or scent that’s instantly transported you back to a time or person in your past?

That’s because your olfactory system is directly connected to your brain.

Over the past couple of months, our small but inspired team has begun building prototype programmed aromatherapy devices (heck, we do live in Silicon Valley) that we’re already experimenting with.

Like I said, it’s early days, but our first results have already been truly encouraging.

If it’s OK with you, I’d love to keep you in the loop as things develop.

This new focus does feel truly promising and inspiring.

Just imagine being able to boost your mood in your sleep.

33 thoughts on “Scents and sensibility

  1. Jon, it is an exciting leap into this fascinating area of positive emotional response to scent smell and sleep.
    Thank you for these insights .
    I shall look forward to hearing more!!

    1. Thank you, David. I’ve been chatting to experts at Stanford about the whole idea, and an enthusiastic psychiatrist acknowledged that he’d never heard of anything quite like this before. Yes, will definitely be reporting in as this progresses.

  2. I agree. I have a scent I regularly spray into the air when I go to bed, which helps me relax and drop off to sleep. I’m sure combining it with a meditation would like the two ideas even better.

  3. My wife has been using, and swears by, fragrances, for a long time. It’ll be interesting to see where this leads us.

  4. This all seems to make perfect sense and an exciting route to explore! I for one would be happy to get involved in this fascinating line of development. Please keep me in the loop!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Ian. I’m happy that I’ve been able to talk about the new work, for the first time, amidst such a positive group. I feel very lucky to be part of this nurturing community.

      You will indeed be kept in the loop!

  5. Hi Jon. Great to hear from you again. I was thinking of you just yesterday!
    This does sound an excellent and exciting idea, another brilliant follow on from all your previous good work. Good luck with it.
    Hearing from you encouraged me to go back to two of your previous guided visualisations which I had somehow not worked through ( the put off until later syndrome). They are very soothing and the ‘child’s toy’ one was extremely helpful. As others have said, you a blessed with the perfect voice! I will go back to them.
    I do miss the weekly Moodnudge though….. with best wishes, and good luck. Siobhan

    1. Thank you for such a positive and supportive post, Siobhan. I’m happy that you were able to re-visit the previous guided visualizations, which were of course all part of this process that I’m exploring now.

      I feel bad about not writing and sending weekly Moodnudges, though. Maybe I can get back to them when the time’s right.

      If anyone else is interested in listening to the “child’s toy” visualization, it’s here:

      1. Please don’t feel bad about the Moodnudges, Jon. It was just a wistful thought – and compliment because they were always so apt. I agree with all that Janis has to say. Onward & upward to new & exciting developments!

  6. Oh yes! Having worked in hospices and seen the extraordinary results that can come from aromatherapy (particularly a reduction in the use of drugs) I’ve long wondered why it is not taken more seriously and used more. Great to see this development, it makes so much sense.
    Looking forward to hearing much more about this, and good luck Jon

    1. Mary, really nice to read your thoughts this morning. I’m fascinated to hear about your experience of aromatherapy in hospices, but can totally see why it could be so effective. Thank you for sharing it. As things develop with this, I’ll certainly be reporting it.

      I have the good fortune to be self-experimenting with the new system myself, and last night I had the most blissful sleep. I hadn’t expected that!

  7. Hi Jon,
    Nice to see you pop up again in my inbox this morning, I too miss your more frequent incites and wisdom, but hey ho I know you are busy with even greater and more intriguing information and research for us which I greatly appreciate. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the use of scent in line with our memories and emotions. I am a firm believer in the power and connection our brains have in relation to our sense of smell and regularly use essential oils and diffusers to calm and relax. Many thanks for all you do.

    1. Great to hear you’re a fan of essential oils, Janis. Me too. And this new work gives me the perfect excuse to experiment to my heart’s content.

      Thanks for missing the weekly Moodnudges, but kind of you to see that I’ve been busy dreaming up all kinds of new stuff… coming soon. Thanks for dropping by!

  8. Hi Jon

    I am happy to have been kept in your loop and I’m keen on the evolving of your ideas. My heart did a bit of a skip when I started reading about the scent/smell aspect to be included simultaneously with the audio visualisations.

    Smell for me has always been a way for me to instantly find myself in a mindful space within. Smell is so powerful, it bypasses all the internal emotional turmoil that occurs and I can be there long sniffing, eyes closed, sighing and sniffing again, the memories flood back immediately.

    I am excited for the next step. I would be keen to assist if any was needed.

    1. I’m so happy to pick up on your enthusiasm, Tania. Thank you.

      You’re very right about the power of smell, of course, and its instant awakening of memories. I expect you know that, while our senses of vision and hearing go through the brain’s thalamus before arriving in the processing area, our sense of smell is wired straight into the forebrain.

      Some suggest that we therefore don’t get a chance to make sense of smells before they hit us emotionally. Pow, and we’re transported back.

      You paint a brilliant picture of how powerful fragrances can be for you.

  9. Jon, good to hear from you again. Your idea sounds great. In some of the currently existing mental health recovery colleges in the UK they encourage individuals to put together a “first aid kit” not of plasters or bandages but of things that improve your mood, such as photos, books, music. Whatever makes you feel good basically. Scents and fragrances seemed to be popular for many patients so your work could well have an established market. Good luck.

  10. That really is exciting Jon!

    Smell is a sense that I would hate to lose, not least because of its strong link to taste. I’m with others who already reach for night time sprays when I expect to struggle sleeping or staying asleep. I’m fascinated in how your combination will work so do keep us posted.

    On a related note, I work with autistic children young adults and they often experience smell very differently from neurotypicals. I love hearing what they tell me about how they sense the world.

    Thanks again Jon.

    1. Lovely reflections, Cate. Thank you. I’d not heard that about young people with autism (perhaps adults too?), experiencing smell differently.

      Actually the very business of talking about smell is such a difficult thing to do. I think we tend to say that fragrances are “nice” or “horrid,” or perhaps fruity or flowery. But it does make you wonder… how on earth would you describe the smell of coffee, say? Or earth after it’s been rained on? Or that amazing smell of fresh Crayola crayons?

      You’ve got me thinking Cate. Thank you.

  11. Hi Jon,
    I am very interested in aromatherapy so am looking forward to whats next with your ideas
    Hope you are well Jackie in Essex UK

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