Baby Steps to Normal Life

As some elements of our normal life returns to us this week and next week. I think its time to reflect on the last year. Give a huge thank you to the front-line workers who kept everything running whilst placing themselves in harm’s way, to help others. I send a virtual hug to those who lose someone and those still living with long-term health problems. And last but certainly not less, I sent a silent pray to those who are still battling Covid and their loved ones. We have to remember the bad times to hopefully learn from them as start to rebuilt a new normal life.

I am not sure that things will ever be quite the same, perhaps that’s not such a bad thing if the new normal is an improvement on the old normal. I guess that is left in all of our carefully washed hands. With a renewed sense of what matters the most: family, health and community.

We still need to proceed with care, the worse hopefully is over, but there still needs to be caution and new awareness. Some of the freedom we took for granted maybe lost for some time. Working together we can do more, a lot of people are stir crazy, some are deeply depressed with good cause, some are anxious to leave the safety of their four walls. Everyone’s story is different and deserves respect. We have all done the best we could do under the circumstances. The blame game achieves nothing!

I have mentioned this before but if you are offered a vaccination please take it, if not for yourself but for the others in your life to protect them. Its one of the few things available to us to fight this silent virus.

I wish you all a safe journey moving forward, continue to stay safe and respect the path of others please, we all matter!

The Beauty of Words

When I was researching about the use of words, I found an English Language and Culture Blog, it’s so fascinating to look at your native language (and one that you often take for granted) through some-else’s eyes. Words do have real power to express feeling. Their meanings shape our beliefs, drive our behaviour and create our world. When we read, speak or hear certain words it can stimulate our emotional responses. In fact, some of the most beautiful English words evoke feelings of happiness like Serenity which is a sense of calm and peacefulness.

I have been improving my skills in Spanish and French during the lockdown period. I find that Latin-based languages sound so beautiful, at times they almost flow along. I fully understand how French is said to be the language of love. The English language has borrowed from more traditionally beautiful languages such as French, Italian and Spanish and some of English’s beauty does come from its relationship to other languages. My Spanish friends add words like estupendo and magnifico into every day conversation. Yet in English conversation, more flamboyant language is generally only used by Thespians, Artists and enthused drama teachers. Other-wise it regarded as a bit eccentric. I found myself chuckling after reading a blog about learning to speak English and encouraging the use of, shall we say, more descriptive words. As I can imagine how mixed the responses to this would be!

But perhaps adding more beautiful words into our everyday speech is not such a bad thing. We do after all, have a truly beautiful language but don’t always use it, to its full advantage.

Here are some of my favourites, now I’m not fully sure how I am going to introduce these into my conversations, but a challenge is always good!

Quintessential from a Latin word describing something in its purest form.

Sumptuous from a French word meaning something that is lavish or wastefully expensive. Today, it describes something that is magnificent or seemingly expensive.

Cascade from the Italian cascare meaning to fall. Refers to water falling over a cliff or a similar situation.

Ethereal means something so beautiful that it simply cannot be from this world.

Succulent from a French word meaning juicy. (Cacti are called “succulents” because of how much water they hold)

Iridescent from the Latin word iris, meaning rainbow.

Serendipity refers to something positive that happens completely by chance. It was coined by writer and historian Horace Walpole in the 1700s and based on a Persian fairy tale.

Evanescence comes from the French word évanescent, meaning something that disappears to the point of becoming invisible.

Solitude: a state of seclusion or isolation.

Eloquence the art of using language in an apt, fluent way.

Aesthete is one having or affecting sensitivity to the beautiful especially in art.

Euphoria from the Greek word for healthy, is now used to describe an intense feeling of happiness or elation.

Cherish to hold dear or cultivate with care and affection.

Dulcet pleasant to the ear; melodious and soothing

Tranquillity being free from agitation of mind or spirit.

Who says English is not a beautiful, poetic language, with words like these. Eloquence is surely the only way forward.

The Happiness of Words

I have talked about positive words and there are many words of happiness in different languages and cultures. There are expressions to be had of positivity, joy for others and of happiness in the moment. Happy, was first used in the 1520s, the word originally referred to good fortune and prosperity. The word for happy in most languages came from the word for lucky. This suggests that perhaps our ancestors believed that happiness was largely a by-product of luck. Words and expressions that mean extremely happy include ecstatic, elated, euphoric, jubilant, in seventh heaven, on cloud nine and over the moon. Over the next few months, for example, we can hope to delight in respair the unsung enemy of despair and which in the 16th century meant fresh hope and a recovery from despondency. And there is always confelicity the unselfish joy in someone else’s pleasure. And we should all aspire to be goodwill, which is well-disposed and benevolent towards others.

Tim Lomas, a lecturer in positive psychology at the University of East London and the writer of Happiness- Found in Translation, collects expressions of happiness from other languages. These words have no direct English equivalent, but they represent very precise emotional experiences that are at times neglected in our language. Many emotion words are already borrowed from other languages like French and Spanish but there are many more that have not yet found their way into our vocabulary. Do other languages talk about happiness better? Certainly, those words of the Mediterranean sound as sunny and soothing as their blue skies, sun and oceans. Perhaps, it’s a reflection of our national tendency towards pessimism and of a lifetime of rain and grey skies. A riffle through a historical English dictionary would suggest that the melancholy has always had the edge, linguistically speaking over happiness. But if this pessimism finds ample expression in the dictionary, the proof that exists that positive language can bring its own luck, has to be a sign to use more words of happiness in our life’s!

 I have listed some interesting examples of words from other countries below:

kǔ qù gān lái, the Chinese word describes the journey through pain to sweetness and relief. (We all need a dose of that at the moment) Happiness and melancholy do tend to go hand in hand in many cultures, the bitter-sweetness of a happiness that is destined to fade.

Mbuki-mvuki is the irresistible urge to “shuck off your clothes as you dance

 Kilig is the jittery fluttering feeling as you talk to someone you fancy.

Uitwaaien encapsulates the revitalising effects of taking a walk in the wind

Tarab from Arabic is a musically induced state of ecstasy or enchantment

Desbundar from Portuguese is to shed one’s inhibitions in having fun

Shinrin-yoku from Japan is the relaxation gained from bathing in the forest, figuratively or literally

Gigil is the irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze someone because they are loved or cherished

Yuan bei is Chinese for a sense of complete and perfect accomplishment

Iktsuarpok (Inuit) is the anticipation one feels when waiting for someone, whereby one keeps going outside to check if they have arrived

Sukha (Sanskrit) is the genuine lasting happiness independent of circumstances

Fjaka from Crotiais the sweetness of doing nothing

Sprezzatura– Italian for nonchalant effortlessness      

All these words both enrich and expand people’s own emotional worlds bringing positive feelings and experiences, showing the importance of language. And at the end of the day, who wouldn’t be interested in adding a bit more happiness to their own lives and why not I say?

Words Do Matter

The words we use can literally change our brains. Great leaders have used the power of words to transform our emotions and to shape the course of destiny. When Winston Churchill spoke of “their finest hour” or when Martin Luther King, Jr. described his “dream”, we clearly saw that their beliefs were formed by these words. But what about our own ability to use words to ignite change, to move ourselves to action and to improve the quality of our lives? We all know that words provide us with a way for expressing and sharing experiences with others. But do you realize that the words you choose also affect how your brain reacts on a physiological level? In the 2012 book, Words Can Change Your Brain– Dr. Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman state that “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.”

So, using positive words more often than negative ones can kick-start the motivational centres of our brain’s. This can alter how our brain functions by increasing cognitive reasoning and strengthening areas in our frontal lobes. On the other hand, when we use negative words, we’re keeping certain neuro-chemicals from being produced which contribute to stress management.This increases the activity in our brain’s fear centre, causing stress-producing hormones to flood our system. Angry words send alarm messages through the brain and they partially shut down the logic-and-reasoning centres, which allow us to think clearly.

Words are extremely powerful tools that we can use to uplift our personal energy and improve our lives, we’re often not even conscious of the words we speak, read and are exposed to. The words of others can easily affect our personal vibration. Spend a few minutes with a chronic complainer (or drainer) who uses all sorts of negative terms, and you’ll feel your personal energy instantly drop. Words do have great power, so choose them (and your friends) wisely! Ancient scriptures tell us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. As it turns out, that’s not just a metaphor. Some of us are in the habit of using the same negative words over and over again out of habit. The problem is that the more we hear, read, or speak a word or phrase the more power it has over us. This is because the brain uses repetition to learn, searching for patterns and consistency as a way to make sense of the world around us. We never think that the words we use in everyday life can bring negative energy into our vibration and affect us on a physical level, but they do. Most of the time we just don’t notice.

Speaking positive words leads to positive thoughts and the opposite is true. From our current perspective we all need as much positivity as possible and signs that there are brighter days ahead of us. Every time, I watch the news there is yet more doom and gloom and disagreements, many of the TV shows we watch are full of conflict and harsh, negative language. My Spanish friends tell me that the English lack passion, as I have told them, I don’t think this is actually true, but we are more likely to say everything is fine rather than or great or even fantastic in England. So, by ramping up the volume and using wonderful rather than ok, we can increase the positive energy, feel much better and generate a bigger energetic response in the body. You have the power to change your world by using words consciously is one of the quickest ways to shift the energy you bring into your life.

It feels a bit unnatural and a little bit Pollyanna… ish. (An excessively or blindly optimistic person) To start saying everything is just wonderful, in particular when its most likely not. But it’s a simple and easy thing to rephrase in a more positive manner to make you and those around you feel more uplifted.

Why not give it a go!

Scent in Business

I have talked about home scents and the positive ways it can affect you, but it’s not only in your home that this happen’s, shops, restaurants, hotels even banks are catching on to the fact that the importance of scents does not only apply to the home interior market. Scent makes it easier to build authentic, emotional connections with customers, as humans are most receptive when all 5 senses are active. Most businesses only use sight and sound to communicate with customers. Ambient scent uses fragrance to enhance the experience of consumers. Scent branding is unique to each company’s identity. Researchers around the globe have conducted field studies on the effects of ambient scent and there is much research on emotion and scent marketing. The research clearly shows scent has the power to affect our emotional state. But what does that mean in the context of a business?

In the wake of the Ecommerce boom, customer expectations have changed and customers seek unique (emotional) experiences. The Harvard Business Review found that emotionally connected customers are 52% more valuable to a brand than those who are just satisfied. According to branding expert and author Martin Lindstrom, of all the senses, smell is the most persuasive.

When it comes to the retail sector, scents can play a major role in affecting consumers’ purchasing habits and determining whether their in-store experience is one that will be repeated or not. Although some retail store owners will argue that they like to concentrate on visual elements, ambient scenting offers a number of proven benefits to retailers. Customers browse longer in stores where pleasant fragrances are diffused, increasing the chances of a purchase. Also, when offering an inviting environment the shopping experience becomes memorable and the shopper’s perspective of the store is affected positively.

In more recent years, companies have begun to recognize the power of scent. Fashion companies have learned to capitalize on how a particular scent can help customers form an emotional attachment to their brand. And it’s become a common strategy for big companies to take full advantage of sensory design by scenting their spaces with aromas that represent their brand and appeal directly to their target market. Abercrombie & Fitch has their own men’s fragrances, Fierce, which is scented throughout the stores as a way to support the company’s character, giving off what they would describe as a confidence, bold and masculine lifestyle.

Eric Spangenberg, a consumer psychologist and academic found that once feminine scents like vanilla were released, women’s sales doubled. Similar were the effects on men when more masculine smells were released. According to Spangenberg, “Men don’t like to stick around when it smells feminine, and women don’t linger in a store if it smells masculine.”

Switching the scents during the day can also change the mood, in the morning using invigorating scents like citrus and peppermint scents give a different energy to a space. By changing to a calming scent, later in the day or evening the energy will alter too. The company, At-Aroma, which specializes in scent, uses the elements of essential oils to develop its fragrances, in particular its Supplement Air series. Blends like For Wake Up (with peppermint and lemon) and For Meditation (with cypress and eucalyptus) are intended to aid the mind and body in particular activities.

Certain essential oils like eucalyptus and tea tree are also valued for their antiviral properties. However, while some manufacturers have noted growing demand for essential oils amidst the coronavirus pandemic, industry experts warn that it’s impossible to make any claims about essential oils’ efficacy against COVID-19.  However, when I worked for a company selling essential oils, we always sprayed a blend of eucalyptus and tea tree during the flu scents in our shops and it did appear to stop the staff members getting colds and flu as frequently. With global attention on health and sanitation, many businesses are enhancing their cleaning practices with fresh room fragrances to meet higher customer expectations of cleanliness. I feel this will be an area of major growth in the coming years. People don’t always look for the signs of clean, they often smell for them, I know I do.

Scents are such an important part of a consumer’s experience that there are firms which specialize specifically in scent marketing. Scent Air has helped industry worldwide to create powerful customer experiences using fragrance for 20 years, by offering a science-backed approach to custom fragrances (scent branding) and to scenting spaces.  They use a wide selection of scent machines and systems to diffuse non-toxic fragrance that has proofed to be successful.

Consumers are craving rich experiences and emotional connections from the businesses they use. In fact, businesses that deliver exceptional experiences can grow twice as fast.  It’s not just shops, restaurants and hotels can create a feel of cosiness, luxury and even exhilaration through scent. Researchers tested the ability of ambient scent to create a positive first impression in a hotel. The results found that a fragrance matching a hotel’s brand identity generates a more favourable view from guests including higher perceptions of comfort cleanliness and even food tasting better.

So, I feel that we will be finding more and more businesses in particular post-covid looking to ambient scent to offer their customers that little extra. Particularly when people get their sense of smell back!

Reading in Lockdown 2021- World Book Day

On 4th March 2021, World Book Day was held, just like everything else, this year it was very different. With events adapted online as most bookstores are still closed for business. World Book Day sends a powerful and positive message about books and reading in particular for children and even more so in lockdown, when reading is a powerful tool for all ages to cope with the stress, isolation and boredom. This year, authors talked about what World Book Day means to them, and how storytelling can be more important than ever in challenging times like these.

I read a lot, I have since childhood, it was through my grandfather that I came to have a love of reading. But as a family, we have always encouraged bedtime stories and bought books as gifts. Children follow the example of their parents and families, so if they see someone reading, they want to try it too. I owe my sanity in Lockdown to the written word, as the chance to escape to a different world and to learn something different. Life-long learning is essential to all of us, in keeping our brain cells active and staying interested.

The mission of World Book Day is to promote reading for pleasure, by offering every child and young person the opportunity to have a book of their own. Reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success, more than their family circumstances, their parents’ educational background or their income. Changing lives through a love of books and reading, it aims to see more children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, with a life-long habit of reading and the improved life chances this brings them.

Designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading World Book Day is marked in over 100 countries around the globe.

Thousands of bookshops and supermarkets took part in World Book Day. This charity brought together the UK’s leading reading and educational charities: Book Trust, CLPE, National Literacy Trust, and The Reading Agency, children’s publisher Egmont and Nielsen Books, in a collaboration providing insights into the impact of the last year’s Lockdown on reading and the improvement to a child’s life chances. Together, they found that many children and parents embraced reading at the beginning of the pandemic, with huge benefits for their wellbeing and development. (Although this was to decrease slightly as the pandemic continued)

The research found that many children embraced reading at the beginning of the pandemic. The majority looked on-line for reading inspiration on YouTube and with social media. Books have provided a valuable resource to support children’s wellbeing. Young people reported that it helped them relax and made them feel happy. 82% of Teachers found ways of reading aloud to their classes during the pandemic because it provided an emotional support as well as developing literacy skills.

The latest research for the National Literacy Trust shows the positive impact World Book Day has had during the pandemic in 2020. With 3 in 5 primary children saying that they had read more books as a result. Over half had talked more about books with family and friends. A third had also read more books with their family. One surprising fact was that 3 in 10 of the children receiving a World Book Day token in 2020 said it was the first book they ever had of their own. So, it’s wonderful that they get to own a book which is something they can treasure.

Thanks to National Book Tokens and lots of lovely book publishers and booksellers, World Book Day, in partnership with schools all over the country, distribute over 15 million £1/€1.50 World Book Day book tokens to children and young people (that’s almost one for every child/young person under 18 in the UK and Ireland) every year on World Book Day.

During the pandemic, access to books remains a serious issue, particularly amongst disadvantaged children and families. Despite many schools implementing quarantine schemes and delivery services, 40% of primary-level children were unable to take books home. However, many local libraries have offered online free books and audio books, although a tablet or android phone is necessary. Libraries have been using mobile units to deliver books to the sick and elderly. Also, in the second and third lockdowns some library offered collection services, a bit like click and collect. I am a big fan of the work local libraries do for the community at large and we should all try to continue to support them. In part so they are able to carry on offering us a service.

A selection of free audiobooks for all ages is available from the World Book Day website as well as a full range of reading and learning resources for the rest of the year. Visit the website for details  https://www.worldbookday.com/

Libby is the local library app and free online library cards are available if you don’t have a card, just visit your local library website for details.

I do hope you get chance to read a little, either a physical, kindle or audio book, I am sure you will enjoy it!

Can Plants Improve the Air Pollution in Your Home?

There is an increase of indoor pollution in our homes, which can lead to allergies and lung problems. Are the air-tight, insulated, clean homes we live in harmful to our health? Could the humble houseplant be our saviour? As certain common plants have been shown to remove toxic agents naturally from the air.

Indoor air pollution is linked to the risk of pneumonia, COPD and lung cancer. Pollution in your home can also increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. If you have asthma, your symptoms might get worse if you have an allergic reaction to a pollutant in the air. The quality of the air we breathe indoors is affected by many things: how a building is ventilated, room temperature, damp, condensation, dust mites, cleaning products, heating, cooking, building materials used in construction, modern furnishings, pets, scented candles and cigarette smoke.

We use a wide range of household chemicals every day to clean and decorate our homes which are then released into the air inside our homes. Some of these can contain chemicals called VOCs, (volatile organic compounds) which are found in furniture polish, air fresheners, oven cleaners, glues and detergents. Although more research is needed before we can be fully certain about the effects of breathing in these chemicals in our homes, existing studies do suggest that being exposed to these can increase your risk of developing an allergy. ( As an asthmatic all of these have in the past caused me breathing problems and increased coughing) So, look for products that are labelled allergy friendly, as they have lower levels of volatile chemicals. Natural cleaners like hydrogen peroxide and vinegar are easy to use and cheaper than most commercial chemical cleaners. Use solid or liquid cleaning products rather than sprays that go into the air. Using toxic, chemical cleaning products can makes your home unhealthy.

In the UK, we use a lot of air fresheners, plug-ins, wipes and cleaning products. The characteristic lemon-fresh or pine so familiar in bleaches and washing up liquids comes from fragranced chemicals like limonene and alpha pinene chemicals, not harmful, but it’s what they turn into once released into the air that’s the concern. One of the known secondary products of all fragrance chemicals once they react in the air is formaledehyde ( VOC) with has carcinogenic and breathing-irritant properties. Everyday exposure to indoor chemicals such as formaldehyde may contribute to increasing cancers and other illnesses. The levels of formaldehyde in the air and water are strictly regulated by law in the UK. In small concentrations, they are a normal part of our environment. However, exposure to high levels of VOCs indoors is a source of concern among health professionals, particularly their effect on the delicate airways of children.

In NASA experiment published in 1989, it found that indoor plants can scrub the air of cancer-causing VOCS like formaldehyde and benzene. However, in 2018, Michael Waring, an associate professor of architectural and environmental engineering stated that Houseplants, though charming, do little to purify the air in a room, scientists who study the air we breathe appear to be divided in their oppinons. As one study found that within just two days, the plant removed up to 90% of the toxins found in indoor air. Through photosynthesis, they convert the carbon dioxide we exhale into fresh oxygen and can also remove toxins from the air.

Dr Tijana Blanusa, principal horticultural scientist at the Royal Horticultural Society, explained that research into the impact of houseplants on indoor air quality has intensified over the past few years, particularly the ability of plants to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) and other volatile organic compounds, such as those emitted from paints and furnishings. When CO2 builds up, it results in drowsiness, dizziness and headaches and creates a stuffy, unhealthy home. All leafy green plants will remove some CO2 during the daytime, which they use for photosynthesis. The RHS stresses that plants remove VOCs at a slower pace and not quickly enough to have much effect on the air quality of your home. But that houseplants can enhance our lives in a number of ways like improving moods and reducing stress. Adding plants into the areas you are working in, (if home-working) is said to increase productivity, improve attention span and creativity. Which is another great reason for having a few plants, scattered about.

So, no clear-cut answers for now, but it’s an area of ongoing and exciting research, which I will keep following closely. I think that adding plants to your home can look lovely in a room, making you feel energised by the space around you. Some plants are better at improving the quality of air such as Palms, Ferns, Ivy, Chrysanthemums and Spider Plants.

Spider plants, known as air plants, grow quickly and look great in hanging baskets.

Golden pothos, known as devil’s ivy, flourishes in a variety of conditions and can grow up to 8 feet One of the most effective indoor air purifiers for removing common toxins.

Chrysanthemums are ranked the highest for air purification. They’re shown to eliminate common toxins as well as ammonia.

English ivy (Hedera helix) is an evergreen climbing plant well adapted to indoor conditions. Different varieties prefer different light situations from indirect light to low-light spaces.

Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum) Remove common household toxins like ammonia.

Bamboo palms add a healthy dose of moisture into the air, making it a welcome addition in dry winter months.

Rubber plants are evergreen trees and these plants love bright, light and a little attention occasionally.

If you have pets such as cats and dogs, you may want to reconsider air-purifying plants as many of these plants can be toxic to them. Ask the staff at your local garden centre about pet-safe options.

Also, an increase in plants can also affect humidity and promote mould growth, to prevent this, let the water drain into a pan or a tray and remove the excess water regularly.

One final point about home air pollution, open your windows every day to let the fresh air enter your home. Even for a few precious minutes a day even when it’s a bit cold outside and especially if you’re cooking or using the shower. Your home will feel better for it and you feel good too.

A (Naturally) Fragrant Home

All five of the senses work together to give a full picture of our surroundings. The sense of smell works more acutely on our brain than we realize, having the power to trigger memories and feelings. It has been proven through a number of studies that fragrance can affect a person’s mood, so choosing a scent that puts you in a happy and relaxed state of mind is really important during a time of 24/7 home-confinement. Finding the perfect home-scent can contribute to your well-being by triggering positive emotions that allow you to fully unwind and recharge.

We encounter a lot of smells in a day, our nose’s are often subjected to some very unpleasant ones; in the street, at work, pollution, stale tobacco, the list is endless. I’m a big fan of perfume in any form and if I walk into a room and smell a lovely fragrance, its instantly uplifing. When someone visits your home it’s often the first thing they notice. A quick spray of Febreze doesn’t work anymore. However wonderfully furnished and accessorised, for rooms to be fully complete, the way they smell is the missing link. The mystery ingredient if you like. How your home smells can leave a lasting impression and is just as important as its visual appearance. Fragrance is often underestimated and seen as an afterthought rather than an integral part of a home. But have you ever wondered why you get a great feeling when you smell fresh flowers or ground coffee?

At-Aroma a Tokyo- based fragrance design company, they design a fragrance for a space which is described as scent architecture. In Japan, the importance of scent to the overall design of a space relates to the tradition of kodo. In more recent years more western companies have begun to recognize the power of scent. Restaurants, hotels and spas often use fragrance to create a specific atmosphere that they want to portray to match their image. Like the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York who collaborated with French perfumers Le Labo to develop their signature scent.

Scented candles have been raised to objects of celebrity status and desire in social media.( Blame the millennials) The choice is huge, you can get tealights, pillar candles, taper candles, votive candles, container candles, scented, unscented, beeswax, vegan candles, soy wax melts and even charcoal sticks. We have gone a little crazy for home fragrance. A home can’t be Instagram ready without a (branded) candle.

To fragrance a home, there are scented candles, incense, essential oils, room sprays and diffusers. The most popular been candles and reed diffusers. Reed diffusers infuse the room with a constant background scent and candles provide a mood-setting glow and fragrance. Home-scents are not used purely for necessity but for creating a warm and intimate space that encourages comfort and happiness.

It is best to avoid a strong scent that can dominate an entire room or one that is too subtle to smell. Floral scents are relaxing, I love Rose and Jasmine, (perfect for a bedroom or bathroom) woody scents like Frankincense can make you feel grounded (think of churches) and the freshness of citrus invigorates. For kitchen spaces, the distinct aromas of lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit and herbs; lemongrass, ginger, basil and rosemary can cover up cooking odours. In the bedroom to create ambiance, warm, floral scents are lovely. A candle or diffuser with lavender and jasmine is an aroma-therapeutic, sleep-inducing treat. Light, aromatic, nature-inspired; green tea, fig, leaves, grasses and bamboo are perfect for the main living area and give a connection with the outdoors. Do take into account whether it’s a small or large space. Children and pets are more sensitive to smell so factor this into your choices. If you want to match your home-scent to the seasons, try lighter, fruits and florals in summer and warmer, spices and woods in winter. After a while you can go nose-blind, so it’s a good idea to change the room fragrance regularly.

It’s crucial to source your home fragrances from companies producing natural products to keep your air clean of harsh chemicals. These products can be more expensive but do also last much longer as well as better for the environment.

Diffusers- Oil diffusers don’t create smoke and thus won’t spread toxins in the same way as candles. Larger diffusers can scent an entire room, in smaller spaces, reduce the reeds used or opt for a gentler scent. The reeds in a diffuser should be inverted (turned) every two weeks to maximise the fragrance and maintain a consistent level of scent within the room. With diffusers you can leave them unattended and are fairly low-maintenance. Aesthetically, many of the bottles can act as a stylish centrepiece or you can pour the liquid into a pretty glass or ceramic container of your own. A narrower top will ensure the fragrance doesn’t fade as quickly, but if it does turn the reeds, to instantly refresh the room.

Candles– are great for an intimate event, like dinner or a bath, as they give off light and scent. Luxury candles can be made primarily with synthetic scent and boosters to help a smaller amount of fragrance go further. I prefer candles that aren’t made with synthetic ingredients. Natural candles use natural wax and essential oils. Scented candles with artificial fragrances can release synthetic compounds into the air, which can cause skin, eye and nose irritations. Paraffin wax is the predominant wax used in the candle industry. It’s the final by-product in the petroleum refining chain. (Described as the bottom of the barrel). Although there is no conclusive evidence that burning paraffin candle wax is damaging to your health, natural waxes like soy, vegetable and beeswax offer a non-toxic alternative. (Having a very low environmental impact and footprint) These burn cleaner and slower, with less soot than cheaply manufactured waxes so the candle lasts much longer. Ventilate your room after extinguishing a candle to get rid of any toxins released particularly if using paraffin candles. Breathing too much of any type of smoke can potentially damage your health, so don’t burn candles for longer than four hours and cool for at least two hours before relighting. When first lighting a candle burn for three hours to ensure that the wax melts evenly and to the edge and bottom of the candle to prevent tunnelling, which is a hole or ‘tunnel’ in the centre of the candle caused by uneven burning. Trim the wick to around three millimetres, so the wick burns at the same speed as the candle. For some really lovely natural scented candles go to Neom and the Bathhouse.        www.neomorganics.com         www.thebathhouseshop.co.uk

I believe that the right scent creates a unique character to a room or home. Your personal choice of fragrance can make a house feel like a home. It’s an everyday affordable luxury. So, why not treat yourself to a candle or diffuser, natural of course and see if it makes you feel you good!

Scenting our Homes in Lockdown

One of the few positives from the various states of lockdown has been the increased focus on self-care and also thinking more about our home environment. The home fragrance market: candles, diffusers and vapour diffusers has enjoyed a real surge in demand as we seek ways to relax, to concentrate or even just to make our rooms (we’re spending more time in) simply smell better. Candles have been used in sacred ceremonies for centuries, to bring a peaceful ambiance into a space. But whilst their minimal light and aromas create a serene sanctuary, there are actually other reasons why you should burn candles in your home. They can actually help your mental state and well-being, essential in our third lockdown. (And hopefully final one)

The UK is one of the world’s biggest candle markets. In 2020, the estimated market was 1.9 billon. And, while the beauty industry has faced a steep decline, there has been a large increase in home fragrance. This may be vital to the survival of many beauty retailers during the pandemic, as shoppers bought more home scents such as candles and diffusers. Small independent candle makers were one of the lockdown business success stories.  

There has also been a new focus on our sense of smell since the start of the COVID pandemic, as a sense that many of us took for granted and is often ranked as the least important sense.  Half of patients with covid-19 may lose sense of smell and guidance rules states that a new change or loss in sense of smell should prompt a period of self-isolation. Losing the sense of smell (anosmia) has been traumatic for many people struck with COVID. The effect of it meant not just missing, the smell of fresh bread or perfume but it left many patients feeling depressed and further isolated. Dr. Sandeep Robert Datta, a neurobiologist, states that while many think of scent as an aesthetic bonus sense, it is an important link between people and the environment around them. Nine in ten patients can expect substantial improvement in their sense of smell within four weeks and using olfactory training been shown to help people improve and regain their sense of smell.

Olfactory training is a self-management strategy that involves a regular programme of using strong odours or essential oils to trigger recovery of the olfactory system. Smell training involves twice- daily sniffing of four essential oils to help the damaged olfactory nerve repair itself.

We don’t just miss the sights and sounds of our favourite places; we also miss the smells. Indeed, some brands have capitalised on this lockdown absence in creating exotic scents that are evocative of distant shores. A good-quality scented candle can remind us of places we have visited and loved. Perhaps we need this more than ever when we’re locked down in our homes and unable to travel. The soothing effect that candles have is based on how the brain processes smells. The smell of scented candles stimulates our limbic system, the part of the brain that is home to our memory and emotions.

If you need a further reason to place a handful of candles around your desk for decorative purposes, you now have the perfect excuse, as surrounding yourself with scented candles while you work can actually increase your focus and help you become more productive. Aromas like mint, lemon, orange and rosemary can invigorate your senses and help give you that extra boost you need whilst working from home.

Lighting a candle can remind you of a happier time and can make you feel better if you are feeling a little down. A Japanese study conducted on 12 participants who were depressed, showed that the smell of lemons helped, boosted their immune function and regulated hormone levels. So much so that their dosage of antidepressants was lowered. There are several essential oils that can help alleviate feelings of uneasiness, uplift your flagging spirits and promote a better, stronger, more positive state of mind. Using essential oils is a natural and proven way to help reduce the symptoms of nervousness and restore positivity, I use Bergamot essential oil (reduces hormone responses to stress) in a burner and find this both uplifting and relaxing. So, the next time you want to instantly lift your mood, try to use a candle or diffuser with citrus or rosemary scents. If you’re choosing candles for your home, then they should be natural where possible. I will write a blog about natural home scents.

The blue light that is admitted from computer screens decreases your magnesium levels, which can make you feel less tired and more anxious. (Contributing to insomnia) To combat this, shutting your light off earlier and lighting a candle can actually help you feel calmer earlier in the evening and reset to your natural sleep rhythms. When you’re not being disrupted by technology, it’s easier to listen to your body and know when to shut down for the night without being distracted. When life starts to feel overwhelming, light a candle, an oil burner or steam diffuser with several drops of essential oil. To help instil a feeling of calmness, lift anxiety and aid sleep, the following used on their own or in combination with each other can be a great help; camomile, lavender, (sedative) frankincense, neroli, rose, sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli and ylang ylang. (lifts depression)

Once you smell a candle scented by essential oils, you’ll instantly notice the difference compared to a synthetic scented candle.  Also, there are concerns with the use of paraffins and other synthetic ingredients. Candles with artificial fragrances and boosters are releasing synthetic compounds into the air. This can sometimes cause skin, eye, and nose irritations for some. (Especially for those with potential allergies) Natural wax candles include: beeswax, rapeseed and soy, all have a very low environmental impacts and footprint, and I would recommend these rather than paraffin wax candles. Breathing too much of any type of smoke can potentially damage your health so ventilate your room by opening a window after extinguishing a candle.

Traditionally, oil burners have been used to diffuse oils, but now there are numerous options like nebulizing diffusers or vapour diffusers. They don’t require any form of internal heat to disperse scented oils around a room. As there’s no flame or hot wax, these can be left on for longer periods, even overnight, some have an automatic cut off after several hours. I add eucalyptus oil at night when I have a cold, to help breathing. These are ideal as a safer replacement for candles.

Vapour diffusers pump out a fragrant water vapor, (steam) these occasionally need to be filled with a small amount of water and a few drops of essential oil. They give off a fragrance at a slower pace. The result is a lighter scent but one that lingers. Vapour diffusers are one of the best and easier ways to use aromatherapy daily. If you are familiar with oils or only just starting to use them you will find that the electric vapour diffusers are really versatile and you are less likely to become over-sensitised to the oils because of a slower inhalation. I use one myself!

Nebulizing diffusers work by forcing a stream of air at high pressure through small tubes or filters that contain essential oil which then sprays fine particles of the essential oil into the air. This fine mist distributes the oil around the room. Nebulizers don’t require water but do use more oil. However, they disperse essential oils much faster and at a higher concentration.

If you have pets some essential oils are toxic to dogs and cats. If you have nebulizer, make sure the oil you’re using is safe for your pet and air out the room before you let enter the room. Avoid using an essential oil diffuser if you have birds as their respiratory tracts are very sensitive. Passive diffusers (bottles with reeds) are generally safer for homes with animals as these are more diluted so safer, it is always best to check with your vet. See the APCC’s toxic and nontoxic plant list for further details.

Both are readily available online at every price point and they make great presents. You do have to use pure essential oils not fragrance oils which can contain mineral oil. (This is actually paraffin oil and best to avoid)

I hope this has given you some insights into the benefits of home scents both for health and wellbeing.

Healing Your Home

I have talked before about your home been a haven, Home is where the heart is after all.  But what about a home that doesn’t feel quite right? Sometimes you can’t quite put your finger on what’s wrong. Take notice, you do need to listen to your heart, intuition and gut feeling.

 I love walking into a house or flat that has good energy. Comfortable furniture and interesting accessories play their part in making a home feel great, but a home that has good energy is just not as tangible as the décor. An open mind is required as I shall aim to explain.

There are many ways to heal the energy in your home. Having a healthy home is important to your health. The energy in a healthy home promotes healing and rejuvenation. It has a wonderful feeling of lightness and clarity, where you can feel relaxed, inspired and energised all at the same time. The atmosphere or feel of a home is so important.

Everything is made up of energy. Some energy we can see, some we cannot. Energy can be positive or negative. Positive energy makes us feel good whilst negative energy is draining. If you are living with negative energy this can manifests itself in many ways; harming relationships, creating a bad atmosphere, causing tiredness and poor health. If you’ve just moved into a new space, you should cleanse your home of any negative energies that might still be there from the previous owners. Have you ever felt an uneasy feeling when you entered a room or building? I know I have!

Homes become sick for many reasons, they can become cluttered and dirty and in energy terms, anything that is untidy, unfinished or unloved, holds onto stagnant energy and disrupts the flow of good energy. Ever more complex than that is the energies generated by us humans. (Arguments, divorce, stress from work and life, physical and mental illness, bullying, hatred and other negative circumstances) We all leave an energetic trace or pattern wherever we go. These can prove to be harmful to others who are vibrating on a different level to us.

It is, however, possible to clear poor energy from within your home through various spiritual clearing practises. The adverse emotional energy has to go somewhere and the bricks and mortar will soak it up like a sponge as does furniture and other items. I have tried some techniques myself, like crystals and using a bell and others I been told about.

Smudging-You have probably seen images of people waving bundles of sage, sometimes mixed with herbs or essential oils like lavender, lemon, juniper berry and cedarwood, mugwort or lighting a piece of Palo Santo. (Wood from the Bursar graveolens tree native to South America and used for healing and cleansing) Smudging is an ancient ceremonial practice used by Native Americans. It’s a process of burning herbs to cleanse and protect a space and when they start to smoke, it blows away any negative energy. It’s easy to perform yourself; first, you need to open all of the doors and windows in your home, then hold the sage and light the end until it starts to smoke. Then you can start the smudging practice, make your way from room to room, waving the smoke into all of the opened and closed spaces and corners. After you’ve smudged each room, you can now cleanse your house with salt. Pour salt into each corner and let it sit for 48 hours (the salt can absorb negative energy). Ring a bell three times in each corner to break up any stagnant energy. Many people choose to use salt lamps to continue clearing bad energy, I have one of these myself.

Crystals- scientists tend to scoff at the idea of crystals having any mystical properties, but crystals have been used all over the world for thousands of years, for adornment, healing and protection. The beauty of using crystals, is that they work with what you already have and are affordable to buy. Pink quartz crystals built up love and positive vibrations. Black tourmaline is powerful for soaking up bad vibes and works well when placed in each corner of a room. Put clear quartz, selenite and calcite next to the Wi-Fi router. Amethyst is known as a master healer. If there is a lot of emotion, try an amethyst cave (a bit like a big rock) it draws in energy, transmutes it and sends it out again. I will write an additional post about crystal power.

Music- is a vibration and those waves or frequencies, reverberate throughout your home. If you listen to music that has positive vibrations, it will broadcast those positive vibrations throughout your home. Think of the vibrations that emanate from bells ringing. The sound is both pleasing to your ears and has a positive effect on your home. There are even some studies that indicate the ringing of bells, like church bells, is an effective treatment for depression and other mental disorders. Tibetan bowls, cymbals, bells, and chimes are also special tools for sound healing, and you can use them to move the sound into the corners of each room to clear the energy. Investing in some wind chimes to hang inside, or outside your home, can give you the same healing benefits as ringing a bell.

Dowsing- is a type of divination employed in attempts to malign earth vibrations. Spiritual dowsing wasn’t used much before the latter part of the twentieth century. Prior to that time, dowsing was more focused on subjects like water and mineral locations. Its growing in popularly for clearing negative energy and geopsychic stresses. The level of stress is measured through dowsing before and after clearing to ensure the stress has been cleared. Geopsychic Stress is the generic term used to cover all the seen and unseen energy patterns, including negative imprints, negative thought forms, trapped souls and entitles, magnetic waves and geological fault streams. This is an area; I don’t know that much about and there are healers working in this field who can help to heal your home and give a more detailed explanation. It would be remiss of me not to mention this as this, although I think it best to take advice from a home healer rather than doing it yourself.

The Greek prefix Geo signifies earth and Pathos means disease or suffering. Geopathic Stress is a form of stress that is underground and can be from underground streams, geological fault streams, tunnels and mines and crossing points of energy and ley lines. These can cause energy stresses above ground where we live. All electrical items produce magnetic waves and these will be measured as Electromagnetic Stress. Electrical items include TV’s, Wi-Fi, microwaves, electric wires, fuse boxes and electric clocks. Some people are sensitive to these waves. Part of the clearing process is to neutralise negative waves emitting from electrical items and put in protection around the property against outside emissions.  I met a fascinating couple in Ibiza, who always turned their wi-fi route off at ten pm and didn’t switch it on again until the morning so as not to harm their sleep patterns.

To conclude then, trying some space clearing like smudging, playing some music or placing crystals in your rooms can help to change the vibrations and raise the energy. By giving your home some love and extra attention, it can make your home feel happier and more of a sanctuary to you.