Keith Kelsen’s The Scent Narrative: Does Scent Influence Joy and Happiness?

Is there a difference between happiness and joy? According to author of a new book called “The Joy Plan” Kaia Roman says “happiness is a cognitive experience based in the brain’s cortex.  It’s a state of mind, which comes and goes easily.  Happiness activates the sympathetic nervous system, which activates the brain’s fight or flight response—it feels exciting and stimulating to the body.”

But Joy is different.  “Joy is a subconscious experience, an emotion based in the brain’s limbic system. Joy activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls rest and relaxation—it feels calming and soothing to the body.”

As we discussed in earlier blogs, the limbic system is a network of connected structures near the middle of the brain linked within the central nervous system. This network works together to affect a wide range of behaviors including emotions, motivation, and memory. This system deals with instinctive or automatic behaviors, and has little, if anything, to do with conscious thought or will.

This is the interesting connection, because the olfactory bulb is one of the structures of the limbic system and a very ancient part of the brain, the information captured by the sense of smell goes from the olfactory bulb to other structures of the limbic system.

Since the emotion Joy also is deeply rooted into the limbic system, scent has a direct influence on Joy.

Now Happiness is another story…In a study at the Utrecht University in the Netherlands it was found that odors produced by our bodies can communicate happiness to others.

The Utrecht researchers discovered that humans can tell whether a person is feeling happy through their smell.

There is a phenomenon known as chemosignalling, where the odors produced by one’s body can communicate happiness to others.

Chemosignals is outside one’s conscious awareness and can act as a medium through which people can become ’emotionally synchronised’,

“Although chemosignalling had previously been shown to convey fear and disgust, little was known about how it related to positive emotions”, the researchers from Utrecht University in the Netherlands concluded.

The team collected the sweat of ‘sender’ participants in happy, fearful and neutral states using pads placed under their armpits while they watched different film clips.

These pads were cut up, put into jars, and offered to a group of ‘receivers’ to smell, in a arbitrary order.

They were hooked up to an electromyograph, which measures subtle differences in the activity of their facial muscles as a function of the emotion they were experiencing, induced by the sweat oders.

“Exposure to sweat from happy senders elicited a happier facial expression than did sweat from fearful or neutral senders,” the researchers wrote in the journal Psychological Science.

“Our findings suggest that not only a negative state, but also a positive state (happiness) can be transferred by means of odours.”

Scent is more than just a fragrance in a bottle, it continues to prove to be the most influential sense that we as human have.  Perhaps we can create joy and happiness in a bottle?

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