Turn off the lights and light a candle!

Candles are another great addition to your positivity tool belt.  Not only are certain aromas known to aid in alleviating physical symptoms, they are also said to aid in inducing feelings of relaxation and positivity.  In addition, the candles themselves can become a part of a ritual of healthy behaviors.  How so? you ask…

Well, let me count the ways.

1) Certain scents can alter a person’s mood for the better. According to a research study report entitled, The Smell Report (click here for more info), our olfactory receptors are directly connected to the limbic system, the most ancient and primitive part of the brain, which is thought to be the seat of emotion.   It is there that the smells we experience are sent to another part of our brain,  the cortex, where ‘cognitive’ recognition occurs, but only after the deepest parts of our brains have been stimulated by the smells.   Further, it is reported that humans are capable of detecting over 10,000 different scents, and every scent causes our body to respond in a slightly different way.  Once activated by the scent, the limbic system releases hormones, causing us to experience a certain mood or emotion.

In regular person speak, this means that our brains recognize smells and can associate them with a good or bad memories, which can, as a result, alter our mood for the better or worse due the brain’s shift in thinking about good memories or bad ones.

One of the most common smells associated with good memories is vanilla.  The report indicates that while not all childhood memories are pleasant, those associated with vanilla are almost invariably positive – sweet treats and rewards, ice-cream holidays, innocent pleasures, etc. – which helps to explain the popularity of the scent.  Who doesn’t want to think about “sweet treats” when they are having a bad day?

2)  Aromatherapy refers to the practice of using scents to treat various psychological and physiological problems.   It’s practice is commonly used in conjunction with massages but the practice of using it for pain management has also spread.

In a recent study performed by Serge Marchand, a neuroscientist for the American Pain Society, the effectiveness of aromatherapy in reducing pain and improving mood of fibromyalgia sufferers was tested.  The study, involving 40 participants, both male and female, showed a correlation between pleasant scents and increased mood levels in both male and female patients. Female patients also showed decreased pain scores when inhaling a pleasant scent.

Common scents said to assist with the physical symptoms are:

  • lavender, chamomile, or jasmine (to help you relax)
  • lemon, grapefruit, or geranium (to help increase your energy)
  • black pepper, eucalyptus, peppermint, or juniper (to ease sore joints and muscles)
  • jasmine, juniper, and cotton blossom (headache relief and powerful sleep aides)
  • cinnamon (helps with exhaustion and fatigue, and has also been said to have wonderful effects on your nerves, calming you down and making you more aware)
  • ginger (a stimulant, boosts awareness)

3) Candles can be a great way to add to your “self-care” routine.  As most spa-goers are aware, candles are a big part of the pampering lifestyle.  Go to a spa for a service and usually there will be candles lit or at the very least, essential oils burning, mostly because they create a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere.  When I don’t have time for the spa, I am a big fan of the uber-pampering bath by candle-light. There is also the wonderfully intoxicating reading in bed by candle-light (with the assistance of a book light of course!).

Whatever your pleasure, use your candles to light the way to a peaceful and serene environment.  Once there, take the time to enjoy it and the benefits that experiencing your favorite scent can bring (remember our brains are waiting to give us the “better” emotion).  This type of self-care routine is very important in times of high stress.  It will provide you with a well-deserved mental break and better prepare you to better manage future stressors.

4)  Research has found that positive thinking has many benefits including:  an increased life span, lower rates of depression, greater resistance to the common cold, better psychological and physical well being, reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and better coping skills.  Though we know of its benefits, it can be difficult to maintain consistently positive thoughts but that shouldn’t stop you from at least making the effort.

Candles can become a part of that effort to live a purposely positive lifestyle.  In fact, the more you make an effort to behave a certain way, the more likely it will come naturally to you (also known as behavior modification).   Here are some ways you can practice positive thinking through the use of candles:

  • Light a candle, preferably a scent that would soothe you or induce feelings of relaxation.  Take a few deep breaths (or as many as you need to be in the moment) and focus on the flame.  Say (out loud or to yourself) an affirmation, or a prayer to reflect on the positive things about yourself, your day or your family.  When you are ready blow out the candle, intentionally picture the negative attitude (or the person, place, situation, or thing causing it) and push it out of your mind, thus making it go away with the extinguished flame! Then…enjoy the rest of your day.
  • Assign a meaning to your candles.  Some religions practice lighting a certain colored candle in support of a cause or belief.  You can practice doing the same in order to increase and support your positive thinking.  You can create your own meanings to associate with each color, but if you are interested, I found a website that identifies candle colors and relates them to chakras and the practice of meditation (Chakras are the seven centers of spiritual energy in the human body according to yoga/meditation philosophy).  Click here to check out their interpretation of the candle colors meanings as it relates to the Chakras. I have listed some examples below:

… White candle for centering yourself, gaining inner peace

… Blue candle for greater understanding of those around you

… Green candle for money, growth, prosperity and abundance

… Orange candle for stimulation.

Enjoy, positive thinkers! But be careful and safe while using your candles.

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