The Benefits of Scented Candles According to a Psychotherapist

By Kendall Cornish

Many of us have been burning more candles lately than we ever have before. Candles are a tradition in many cultures, a mainstay in many homes, and even a luxury to treat yourself and others with, but are there real benefits to burning them? Especially at a time like now, when many of us have been quarantined for over a month, can candles truly affect how we feel about our space?

“It is scientifically proven that scented candles can play an essential role in the physiological effects of mood, stress, working capacity, and overall mental health,” Chryssa Chalkia, an accredited clinical integrative psychotherapist and cognitive behavioral therapist, said. Chalkia wrote an article on the effect scented candles have on reducing anxiety, but we spoke to her directly about her findings.

“The soothing effect that candles have is based on how the brain processes smells. The smell of scented candles stimulates our limbic system, the part of the brain that is home to our memory and emotions. Hormones like serotonin and dopamine can be produced to help regulate mood.  Therefore, our emotional state is influenced by the relationship that exists between scents, memories, and emotions.”

In short, certain scents can be attractive to you because of the memories you have in association with them. But some scents trigger the same hormones over and over again in many different people, making them widely popular in calming home scents. These aromas, like geranium, lavender, and peppermint, have “proven to be useful for the treatment of various psychological and physiological disorders.”

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While ylang ylang “promotes feelings of joy and ease,” jasmine “improves positive feelings and energy levels.” Peppermint and spearmint “wake up your mind…enhance focus…and improve memory,” but if you’re looking for something to calm your anxiety, rosemary, lemon, chamomile, and geranium are for you.

Chalkia suggests, for those struggling to maintain a positive outlook during the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of citrus-scented candles, which are proven to “lift your spirits and boost your energy.” She recommends Diptyque’s Choisya, “an orange [blossom]-scented candle with notes of sweet citrus fruit, fresh oranges, and green leaves” or the “True Grace Wild Lime Scented Tin Candle for a bit of energy stimulation. The NEOM Happiness Scented Candle, “which has a wonderful zingy lemon smell, can help you feel more positive.”


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