Negative emotions are a healthy part of the human experience (and in the current state of our country, we are growing more and more accustomed to them). However, no one wants to live in a permanently bummed-out state. So it's smart to arm yourself with tools for dealing with anxiety, anger, sadness, and other less-than-stellar moods in an organic way. Not all of us can afford bi-weekly psychotherapy. But luckily, there is a quicker, cheaper (and less verbal) way to reach emotional wellness. Enter: Aromatherapy.
Most of us are vaguely aware of the benefits of essential oils, but if you don't know exactly how to wield them, they can be a bit mysterious. First, let's discuss exactly what essential oils are and what they can do for your mood.
"Essential oils are the concentrated essences of plants, flowers, and resins… [and they are] able to interact with our bodies and minds in a synergistic way," explains essential oils aficionado Susan Griffin-Black, co-founder of EO Products. "When we breathe in an essential oil, we’re bringing the transformative power of nature into our bodies and minds." The idea that a scent can alter your emotional state sounds like gobbledygook, but mainstream science does offer evidence for it. "Your olfactory nerves are actually in your sinuses… they're extensions of the olfactory part of the brain," explains Hope Gillerman, founder of wellness brand H. Gillerman Organics. "When you breathe in an essential oil, you are not just enjoying the scent, you are actually ingesting the quickly evaporating microparticles into the part of your brain that controls our emotions." So used the right way, essential oils can physiologically improve your well-being—and fast.
Want to know how to use essential oils to remedy every negative mood in seconds? Just keep scrolling.
A Beautiful Mess
Four Essential Oil Hacks:
One of the biggest pluses of using essential oils to improve your mood is that they work instantly. "To get the optimal result from an essential oil combine it with a few others into a synergistic blend," Gillerman advises. Just make sure to dilute your essential oils with a carrier oil, like jojoba, so they don't irritate your skin or smell too strongly. (A good rule of thumb is to combine between one and five drops of each with 10 milliliters of a fatty, odorless oil.)
Before we get into specific scent recommendations, here are a few techniques for how to use your essential oil blends:
"Inhaling an essential oil is the quickest way to adjust your mood or negative emotional reactions," says Gillerman. Simply sit in a comfortable position with your shoulders and legs relaxed. Then put two or three drops of your blend in the palms of your hands, and cup them over your face to inhale. Or, place the drops on a tissue, and wave it back and forth under your nostrils. "Do this five times or until you feel more relaxed," Gillerman instructs.
2. Topical application
"You can inhale essential oils all day by applying them topically near your nose," Gillerman says. Try dabbing them on your collarbones: As the oils evaporate, you'll slowly inhale them off your skin. Or, to speed up the effects, place your oils on the "hot points" of your body, like the neck, chest, and shoulders.
3. In-shower aromatherapy
Turn your shower into a mini aromatherapy spa by placing a couple drops of your blend onto the shower floor. "The hot water helps turn the essential oils into a steamy world of relaxation," says Griffin-Black. "It's a wonderful way to start the day."
To enjoy the positive effects of essential oils all day long, invest in an essential oil diffuser (like this diffuser-humidifier hybrid, $36). Or, you can make one of your own at home. "Diffusers are a great way to get the benefits of essential oils," says Griffin-Black. "Just add a few drops to your diffuser, and fill any room with mood-enhancing benefits of essential oils."
An Essential Oil Blend
If you're sad:
According to Marc Zollicoffer, Director of Spa Education at Aveda, "The best oil to use is the one you like the most. The more you love an aroma, the more effective it can be." At the same time, certain oils are shown to target specific emotions more directly than others.
To address feelings of sadness, try a mix of citrus and floral oils, like orange, grapefruit, bergamot, rose, geranium, and sandalwood. If your feelings are more intense, like depression or grief, Gillerman recommends bringing out the big guns: clary sage ("the queen of happy oils") and silver fir.
If you're stressed:
"When life gets to you, try a little lavender, rose, vetiver, ylang-ylang, or bergamot essential oil to calm your nerves, and leave you feeling ready to take on the day," Griffin-Black suggests.
If you're into traditional Chinese medicine, choose oils that encourage the free flow of qi, which many believe is associated with a healthy liver. According to Gillerman, oils that detoxify a stressed liver include chamomile and carrot.
If you're exhausted:
If you're feeling underslept, lethargic, or emotionally beat, reach for energizing scents like eucalyptus, lemon, basil, peppermint, and rosemary. "These can all help perk you up," says Griffin-Black.
Personally, I have a peppermint, grapefruit, and ginger rollerball that I custom blended in EO's Bay Area store, and it's like an olfactory shot of caffeine.
If you're angry:
Is your boss or mother-in-law ticking you off? You might not think to cure rage with aromatherapy, but the right blend can serve as nature's chill pill. "Find your calm with ylang-ylang, lavender, chamomile, orange, or geranium," says Griffin-Black. "All of these oils can help you get centered."
If you're wired:
If you find your mind racing to the point that you can't sit still much less fall asleep, breathe in a natural tranquilizer like lavender, rose, bergamot, geranium, frankincense, or elemi. "These soothing oils can help you find your calm in the midst of the chaos," says Griffin-Black.
If you're distracted:
Mind wandering? If you find yourself feeling bored, try a blend of lemon, peppermint, eucalyptus, or rosemary, which are all great for energy and attention. By contrast, Gillerman says, "If you are having trouble focusing due to a stressful environment, multitasking, or just have too much on your mind, use meditative oils like sandalwood, frankincense, myrrh, and neroli."
If you're jet-lagged:
This isn't exactly an emotional state, but it is an unpleasant experience that can be remedied with essential oils. Help your body adjust to changes in time zone and temperature with a balancing blend of lavender, orange, and Litsea Cubeba (which helps with digestion, restful sleep, and irritability).