The power of scent in setting and harnessing your goals

Harnessing the power of scent could be the key to a fruitful new year, whatever your resolutions, says ROSALEEN McMEEL.

Cecelia Ahern once told me she lights a Jo Malone London candle before she sits down to write. She sees it as a way of channelling her workspace and unlocking her creativity. Sweet anecdote or genius goal-setting hack? It turns out it may be the latter. While you might not be planning on writing an award-winning novel in 2019, embracing scent could be the difference between achieving a new year goal and that yearly sigh of resignation at yet another abandoned resolution.

“Fragrance fills Indian ashrams because it opens up the meditative mind and has an immediate effect on the nervous system,” says yoga teacher and Yogandha founder, Sinead Duffy, who has made it her life’s passion to promote the use of herbs and plants for wellbeing ( “Romans used to wear rosemary garlands around their heads to focus the mind. It wakes up the brain and the memory. It was the first of our senses to be developed in utero.”

Smells have the power to drive our behaviour on an instinctive and subconscious level. Used correctly, we can also harness our sense of smell and use it to our advantage. “Scent can be powerful for goal setting,” says life coach Caroline Meade. “It’s a particularly useful tool to remind you of things you have achieved and associating a scent to that time, bringing it back into your life to inspire and motivate you.”

Scent sensors are connected to the brain via the olfactory bulb. “There is a very direct pathway between what we smell and the brain, affecting our mood and memory,” says Benoit Nicol, founder of The Nature of Things (, an essential oil company new to the Irish market. Having studied fragrance and its benefits extensively and working with some of the finest oil producers around the world over the last 20 years, Nicol has launched his own range of high-quality essential oils. “Aromachology studies the influence of odours on human behaviour, examining how it can trigger a sense of wellbeing, pleasure, relaxation, happiness, mental clarity, etc, while aromatherapy is similar, but is only focused on a specific kind of odour, those coming from aromatic plant extracts called essential oils, and goes beyond, as it studies the effect of oils not only on the mind, but also the body. Various scientific studies have now identified that certain scents, or rather molecules, trigger certain sensory reactions, such as mental clarity and concentration.”


Founder of essential oil company The Nature of Things Benoit Nicol

Tapping into this physiological phenomenon can help keep you on track with your 2019 goals. “Motivation tends to wane,” says Duffy. “We need mental triggers to keep focused. Scent is the perfect mental trigger, as it directly affects the oldest part of the emotional brain, which drives our actions.” Duffy also points out where I, and many others, may have been going wrong all these years, by suggesting that goal-setting shouldn’t just be a yearly event. “The subconscious never sleeps, so it’s good to reset goals every night. Take the time to set them, write them down and link a scent. Think of it as a backstage pass to the subconscious mind.”

Choosing your scents carefully is key, as is fragrance combining. “Juniper berry is great for conferring a sense of pause and space to get some much-needed clarity. Sandalwood has been used for more than 5,000 years to calm the mind. Rosemary is fantastic for energising mind and body. It’s also cephalic, meaning it clears the mind on every level. Some energising oils are better to restrict usage to the morning – so use them to set your intention for the day. With repeated use, you’re imprinting the messaging and the association of the fragrance with the intention, doubling up on the effects,” explains Duffy. “You’re effectively programming the subconscious mind, which is as suggestible as it is powerful. The subconscious mind is particularly active at night, when the rational mind takes a back seat, so re-setting intentions before bed are invaluable. Here, you should use less stimulating oils. The wood oils – sandalwood, frankincense, myrrh – are perfect for nighttime.”

Fresh and citrusy scents tend to be helpful with focus, alertness and concentration. “In the world of essential oils,” says Nicol, “it translates into peppermint, rosemary, eucalyptus and lemon for energy, focus and concentration, and lavender for meditation, relaxation and clarity of mind.”

While it’s a well-known fact that not all scent is created equal, when it comes to awakening the senses, this is even more relevant. “The same scent incorporated in a candle or room spray will not smell the same,” explains Nicol. “Often, the scent is mixed with other ingredients (wax, alcohol, oils, etc), but also because you are dispensing the scent in different ways, the effect will be altered. Perfumers formulate fragrances differently depending on the final product. In the end, each product will produce a scent that in its way will affect our brain and may have some value.”

While it may impact your senses, when it comes to harnessing fragrance to aid goal-setting, the experts agree the purer the form, the greater the impact. “Topical application has more advantages in that you are absorbing through the skin as well as inhaling it,” says Duffy. “As well as energising mind and body, rosemary can rebalance the liver within 20 minutes of topical application.” Before you start bathing in pure essential oils, it’s important to note they should not be applied directly to skin until they have been pre-blended. “This is why I created the Yogandha range,” says Duffy. “I’m all for easy and instant because wellness is about the micro-choices. So rollerballs are a really easy way to boost wellbeing, energy levels and mood right away. At Yogandha, I developed Yogandha Salute for uplifting, Yogandha Ground for calming, and one for Yogandha Balance. Ideally, all boardrooms would have all three. Using the oils for intentionality, goal-setting, stress-management techniques, immune system-building, team support, group detoxing (from letting go of strategies that didn’t work out to post-Christmas recovery) will all deepen a sense of corporate community and effectiveness.”


With that in mind, all that’s left is for me to wish you a prosperous and fragrant new year.


This article originally appeared in the January/February issue of IMAGE Magazine, on shelves nationwide now. 

The image newsletter