a peek inside the fishbowl

28 Aug, 2020

The power of peppermint

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about a new aromatherapy garden at work. I’ve been mulling it over ever since. The person I interviewed for this – and she’s not in any way one of those people who are really “into” aromatherapy if you know what I mean –  said that touching and smelling the herbs in the garden had a “powerful” effect on people.

It makes sense. I think everyone has a list of fragrances that make them happy.

Here’s mine:

  • campfires
  • lakes
  • the forest
  • crabapple blossoms
  • rain
  • freshly mown grass (especially if there’s a gas lawn mower involved)
  • charcoal grills

What are your favourite scents, and how do they make you feel? Content? Relaxed? Nostalgic?

When I catch a whiff of my favourite scents on the wind I take a deeeeeep breath and think, ahhh, now that makes me happy. I guess it’s because somewhere deep in my brain I’ve created and stored a positive association between the scent itself, and the feeling of Something Good. I got to thinking: If I already have a list of smells that make me happy, why can’t I add a new one to it?

Here’s the thing about that list of scents above: they aren’t exactly accessible to me on a regular basis. As much as I’d like to have a campfire in my yard every night, I can’t. And there are only so many times a week I can visit my local woods.

I wondered if I could make it so that I could take a sniff of a scent when I needed it, and as a result, nudge myself towards feeling better when I was sad/stressed/out of sorts.

I realized I was partway to doing this already… with minty smells. I thought about all the ways I’ve been tapping into minty aromatherapy already:

I buy this minty shower gel and lip balm and bar soap (all from terra20!). I drink mint tea (Stash is my favourite brand). I chew mint gum. I grow mint in the garden (and yes, I actively smell it!). I own a couple of different essential oils that are minty in nature, including this roll-on I bought at Saje. (Sidebar: I love the smell but cannot use it as a “peppermint halo” as described on their website. Some people say it eases headaches when applied to their hairline, but I quickly found out that I can’t apply it anywhere on/near my face because it stings. I only apply it to my wrists and to a bracelet I picked up at terra20 a few years ago.)

I guess I was subconsciously buying these items because I really like minty smells but the more I thought about it the more I realized that minty smells make me happy and relaxed.

For the past few weeks I’ve tried to be extra mindful of the mint. And I am kicking up the mint factor a notch and attempting to make a stronger association. After all, mint is a more “portable” smell than, say, a freshly mown lawn. I can take mint with me! Every morning I listen to a meditation podcast. Each one is only about 10 minutes long, but I make sure I can smell the mint as I tune in to the host’s positive messages. (The aforementioned bracelet is good for this.)

My goal is to connect the happy/relaxed feelings I get by listening to my podcast with a minty fragrance.

I now keep my roll-on tube of minty essential oil on my desk, and another one in my closet where I’m likely to see and remember to use it. When I’m feeling down, or particularly anxious or stressed I take a sniff and think ahhh, now that makes me happy. And you know what, I think it’s working. It instantly transports me to a better place.

I also try to be more mindful of other happy scents when they happen. When I walk in the woods or catch a whiff of a lawnmower I take deep breaths and think about how good they make me feel, and how they restore my equilibrium when I’m feeling off balance.


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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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