The holidays are certainly looking a little different this year.

by Heather Lane

Many of us will be missing family gatherings, gift exchanges, and holiday meals with loved ones. Fortunately, the trick to making the holidays feel more normal is right under our noses!

Our sense of smell can trigger more vivid emotional memories than any other sense and transport us back to our most cherished moments. In fact, research shows 75% of the emotions we generate on a daily basis are affected by smell. This is because smell is the only sense directly connected to the brain’s limbic system – the area responsible for processing emotions, memories, and decisions – so smells are more quickly and strongly associated with memories than visual or auditory cues. In other words, scientifically, smell can instantly trigger an emotional response.

Here’s a look at some ways scent can lift your spirits this year and recreate your most special memories from holidays past.

Oh Snap! Bring on the Gingerbread!

What makes you smile more than spending the holidays baking delicious treats with your family? The touch of flour on little noses, the warm caramelized scent of brittles, the sweet aroma of baking sugar, and the jostling for dibs on ‘cleaning’ the mixing bowls.

There may be less family time in the kitchen this year, but it doesn’t mean we can’t bring back the joy of those sweet memories! Studies show we are 100X more likely to remember something we smell than something we see, hear, or even taste.

So make this year a happy one by recreating those holiday baking memories using some spicy scents! Try fragrances with notes of cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, cardamom, or clove. Look for something with a hint of crystallized sugar or warm apples to help bring your memories to life.

Fun Fact: The scent of cinnamon can improve attention, memory, motor response speed, mood and energy level!

Deck the Halls with the Scents of Celebration!

Remember that warm feeling of decorating the house, playing your favorite holiday tunes, and gathering to wrap presents?

The mere sight of brightly wrapped gifts or twinkling holiday lights can put us in festive moods. The sound of carols and holiday classics can fill our space with cheer. And scents can take it even farther! Research shows that memories recalled by odors are significantly more emotional and evocative than those recalled by sight or sound.

So if you want to relive holidays spent with your family, diffuse hints of apple cider with cinnamon & clove or warm wood notes, evoking cozy times around crackling fires. Add a touch of bright orange zest to liven things up.

Fun Facts: Clove oil can be effective at stopping the growth of some types of bacteria and fungi and citrusy scent have been found to substantially improve hand-washing? Orange ya glad scent can the holidays even safer!

Use Scent to Feel Less Claus-trophobic this Holiday Season

With the pandemic still raging across the country, many people are facing more isolated holidays with lots of time spent indoors at home. But who says a homey holiday has to feel confined?

Give yourself a breather by bringing the invigorating experience of fresh holiday air inside! Scent can evoke memories of walking through neighborhood light displays, cousins romping in the snow, and families investigating every aisle of the tree lots to find their perfect pine. Let your mind escape lock-down with lively pine scents and a touch of cheery citrus.

These refreshing scents can even help people shake off the lock-down blues! Studies show scents can help people feel more cheerful, while improving mood and energy levels and reducing anxiety.

Fun Fact: Austrian Pine essential oil is a known natural antiseptic for the respiratory system

The pandemic may have us all celebrating a little differently this year, but our sense of smell can help keep our connections strong. Sleigh this holiday season with cheery scents and cherished memories.

Interested in using the power of scent to in your commercial space? Prolitec’s scent experts can help you today!


Cited Sources:

New Corner, et al. “Scent Marketing: The Power of Smell.” New Corner, 22 Dec. 2014,

Herz, Rachel S. “Naturalistic Analysis of Autobiographical Memories Triggered by Olfactory Visual and Auditory Stimuli.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Mar. 2004,

“Eyes and Citrus Smell Could Help Cut Hospital Infections.” Warwick Business School, 9 Dec. 2015,

Raudenbush, Bryan & Grayhem, R. & Sears, T. & Wilson, I.. (2009). Effects of peppermint and cinnamon odor administration on simulated driving alertness, mood and workload. North American Journal of Psychology. 11. 245-256.

Vainio-Kaila, T., Kyyhkynen, A., Rautkari, L., & Siitonen, A. (2015). Antibacterial Effects of Extracts of Pinus sylvestris and Picea abies against Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis, Escherichia coli, and Streptococcus pneumoniae. BioResources, 10(4). doi: 10.15376/biores.10.4.7763-7771


About the Author

Heather enjoys delving into research exploring the ways fragrance impacts people in their daily lives. She is a VP at Prolitec, a global provider of ambient scenting, and a recent graduate of the MBA program at Tulane University in New Orleans.

When not studying the fascinating ways fragrance intersects the world of business, Heather renovates historic houses and gets her hands dirty with her non-profit ceramics arts studio.