It All Makes Scents (aka: Aromatherapy)

Step into my living room and take a deep sniff.

Smell that?

Yeah. It smells like Christmas. More specifically, my living room is filled with the sharp, pungent smell of noble fir tree, mixed with fresh-baked sugar cookies, and the fragrance of First Frost. Do you know what first frost smells like?

Neither do I.

But, according to Bath & Body Works, it smells like this $10 candle flickering on my TV stand, along with Caramel Apple Cider, Winter Wonderland, and Autumn Woods. If I were light them all, then I could bottle the new scent and label it, “Holiday Overload.” Better yet, I could call the combination of scents, “Childhood Christmas,” then ship it to my kids when they’re all grown up and living away from home.

Our scents…I mean sense of smell is pretty mingled up with our memories and emotions. More so than our other senses, as the olfactory bulb is pretty well connected with the parts of our brains that process emotion and memory. That’s why, when we smell a freshly sharpened pencil, your memory evokes the stern face of your 4th-grade teacher. Or why a whiff of fresh, damp mint may suddenly whisk you back to that group hike through the woods one summer thirty years ago. I tend to associate the stench of cigarettes with family road trips when I was a kid, hanging my head out of the car window to gulp in breathable air while my mother chain-smoked.

Smell is such a powerful thing. Do you know that sniffing certain essential oils can treat pain, nausea, anxiety, depression, insomnia, sore joints, and dementia?

Neither do scientists.

But that hasn’t stopped people from turning to aromatherapy as a form of alternative treatment for thousands of years. Need an energy boost? Inhale the scent of lemon or tangerine. Fill your home with lavender to boost memory, or ylang ylang to enhance intimacy. 

Despite the fuzzy science, I enjoy being surrounded by good smells. I shower daily in sunshine and daisies (according to to my favorite body wash), then lather my body with Happy Vibes skin cream. Every now and then, when no one is looking, I lift my wrists to my nose and inhale deeply. Maybe little bits of fragrance are actually releasing some feel-good chemicals in my brain, or maybe it’s totally psychological. All I know for sure is that when everything around me smells good, I feel pretty good, too. It all makes scents.

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Shallow Waters (aka: Why Showers Are Better)

Chandler Takes a Bath 
Yesterday I decided to do something that I hadn’t done in many years. Something that many people do regularly and can’t seem to get enough of. Something known to relax the mind and body and rejuvenate the spirit. Something for which there are glossy magazine ads, television episodes, and chains of stores in every shopping mall in America. Bathing Bad

Yesterday, I took a bath.

Before you frown, please note that I take regular showers. But as for baths, well, I can’t remember the last time I actually took one. It just isn’t usually on my list of things to do. But lately, probably because of the stress which the holiday season can create, I have been bombarded with images of people bathing. You know the usual scene – a gorgeous, modern bathroom with a tub the size of a Jacuzzi, surrounded by flickering candles.

The Dream Bath

An invitation to a 1-hour soak in Heaven.

And in the tub lies a woman like me (funny – I can’t recall a single guy in these ads). She is immersed in the bubbles, eyes closed, and a slight smile on her face to remind us that she is absolutely relaxed and content. A bath is the thing to do! A bath is more than just getting clean – it is therapy, it is bliss, it is an hour-long soak in Heaven!

Clearly I have been missing out on something amazing by abstaining from baths all these years. So at last, I filled my tub – my clean and nice, but nothing-like-a-jacuzzi bathtub in my normal, not-quite-modern bathroom. I lit a couple of cinnamon-spice scented candles, grabbed the novel I am in the middle of reading, and slipped into the inviting hot water.

Ahhhhh Bath bliss

But here’s the thing the ads don’t remind you: bathtubs are hard. Very, very hard. And there is nothing relaxing or blissful about hard, slippery enamel pressing against your spine and rear end. I shifted and twisted, but I just could not find a comfortable way to sit in the bathtub. Nor could I figure out how in the world I was supposed to wash and condition my hair. I did, however, manage to get my novel soaking wet. That did it for me. I climbed out of the bath, drained the now-tepid water, and snuffed my candles, which had by then overwhelmed the little bathroom with the fragrance of cinnamon spice.

That is what so many people are raving about? That is the reason for all those bath stores? That is an activity which relaxes the mind and body? Today, my poor spine is still bruised and sore from my adventures in bathland. Until the day that someone invents a tub made out of memory foam, I think that I will happily stick with showers.