The Best Scents and Diffusers to Boost Your Mood, According to a Fragrance Expert

Kathleen Currie, professional perfumer and founder of Smoke Perfume, recommends the different scents she relies on to relax, get energized, and enhance her overall sense of wellbeing.

Design by Chineme Elobuike for Thrillist
Design by Chineme Elobuike for Thrillist
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Smell is proven to have an incredible influence on our brain’s activity, which explains why certain scents can remind you of a particular person or a specific time in your life. In the same way, olfactory info can trigger certain emotions, which means finding the right scent can help you boost your mood and embrace a feeling that brings you joy or an overall sense of comfort. If you’re looking for a candle or an essential oil that may help you wind down or feel energized, you just need to identify the right ingredients that are known to trigger that state.

To help you unlock the power of scent, we spoke with Kathleen Currie—owner and perfumer of the artisanal fragrance brand Smoke Perfume—who offered insight into the world of scents and recommended some that can help you activate specific moods.

As a breathwork teacher and bodyworker, Currie has an extensive knowledge of how the mind and body connect, which ultimately supports and informs her practice as a perfumer. “Scent alters our mood and emotions in myriad ways,” she says. “For one, in order to smell a scent, you have to breathe! Connecting to the breath activates and relaxes the vagus nerve, shifts the heart rate, oxygenates the blood, and connects us to the present moment, which helps us calm down.” That’s where aromatherapy comes in. According to Currie, this practice uses naturally-derived scented materials (typically essential oils from plants, resins, roots, flowers, etc.) to affect emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing. “Aromatherapy can powerfully alter our mood.”

Below, Currie shares her favorite ingredients and scent combinations that she uses to relax, get energized, and bring about a sense of overall wellbeing.

Mood: Peaceful and energized

Ingredients: Amber, ylang ylang, violet, and lemon eucalyptus.
Currie uses most of these ingredients in her brand’s Wellspring Perfume. “This scent is a blend of amber, cacao, ylang ylang, and violet. My intention when I formulated it was to offer a perfume that would be comforting when we are spread too thin. A scent to help us find our inner wellspring to continue on,” she explains. She recommends these ingredients when you’re craving to be out in nature and seeking peace. As for lemon eucalyptus, she likes it in its purest form. “I like to drop just one drop into my palm (they are very powerful when undiluted!), rub both palms together vigorously, and then cup my palms in front of my nose and take 5-10 deep breaths.” This is a way of experiencing aromatherapy, which she says is a wonderful way to switch gears, shift your mental space, get energized, and relax.

Mood: Deep connection

Ingredient: Rose
“The scent of rose has long been used to comfort and uplift the heart,” says Currie. “It is a softening and heart-centered aroma with deep scent memory associated with it.” It’s a main ingredient in her Full Moon Rose Body Oil, which she uses anytime she wants to connect to her own heart, and as an oil to prep for the day or wind down before bed.

Mood: Relaxed

Ingredient: Oakmoss, sandalwood, and lavender incense
Wear it when: Another way to enjoy aromatherapy is with incense. “I love the visual of the smoke wafting in my home. I love how it makes my home smell, and find the ritual of lighting a stick of incense and placing it in a holder to be a powerful way to engage with scent,” Currie says. Her favorite is her own Night Cloud Incense, which has deep notes of oakmoss, sandalwood, allspice, and lavender, and adds a mysterious vibe to her space.

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