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Essential Oils for Optimism

By Jodi Cohen

“I am so lucky.  Things always work out for me”

My daughter shared this optimistic mantra that has become my default on days when I feel especially anxious or overwhelmed.  

I repeat this mantra while smelling essential oils or tapping on reflex points (like the clavicle) and I can literally feel myself calm down, reset, and pivot to the most optimistic outcome.

And guess what?

The moment I can shift into optimism, things really do always work out for me.

While it’s entirely possible that luck does play a role in this process, I think it’s more probable that the favorable outcome has a basis in science.  More specifically, the science of how your sense of smell correlates with success in every area of your life.

When inhaled, essential oil constituents are thought to affect the chemistry of the brain by stimulating the olfactory receptors located in the nose, which in turn can activate certain neural regions of the brain that help you not only feel more optimistic but trigger a cascade of brain chemicals that help you see the brighter side of things to ensure a better outcome and help you experience more positive events in your life.

Optimism is a mental attitude reflecting a belief, hope, or confidence in success and a positive future.  An optimist outlook assumes that outcome of a specific endeavor, or outcomes in general, will be positive, favorable, and desirable.  Optimists tend to view hardships as learning experiences or temporary setbacks. 

Optimism is basically future gratitude.  Optimists expect good things to happen, whereas pessimists instead predict unfavorable outcomes. Optimistic attitudes are linked to several benefits, including better coping skills, lower stress levels, better physical health, and higher persistence when pursuing goals.

Being in a positive state of mind does a lot of good for the brain and the body.  For example, an optimistic outlook lightens the mood and helps to lower stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which support better mental and physical health. Research has shown that optimism allows you to not only see the brighter side of things but also reduce stress, enjoy positive health benefits and even experience more positive events in your life.

Characteristics of optimism include:

  • Expect things to work out for the best.
  • Believe you will succeed in the face of challenges.
  • Feel that the future looks bright.
  • Think that even good things can come from adverse events.
  • View challenges or obstacles as opportunities to learn.
  • Feel gratitude for the good things in your life.
  • Trust that good things will happen in the future.
  • Look for ways to make the most of opportunities.
  • Have a positive attitude about yourself and others.
  • Accept responsibility for mistakes but don’t dwell on them.
  • Don’t let one bad experience muddy your expectations for the future.

Essential oils support overall mental health and mood, helping to inspire optimism and hope.

Whether they are inhaled or used topically, essential oil compounds influence the chemistry of your brain and body by activating your olfactory receptors located in the nose or through skin absorption.

Your sense of smell connects directly to the part of your brain that regulates the release of hormones that impact your mood and emotional state. 

Essential oils travel through the nasal passageways to the brain where they bind to olfactory receptors. From there they reach the emotional center of the brain – known as the limbic system – where they can stimulate the release of neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which can influence your neurochemistry, helping to enhance mood and reduce anxiety. 

Research validates this, noting that “inhalation of essential oils can communicate signals to the olfactory system and stimulate the brain to exert neurotransmitters (e.g. serotonin and dopamine) thereby further regulating mood.”  Additional research shows that essential oils can significantly impact the brain, calming emotional states and decreasing blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature, which indicates a decrease in autonomic arousal.

Citrus oils, for example, are known to lift mood as their chemical composition of monoterpenes like limonene may help to lift mood, calm anxiety, alleviate depression, and literally make you feel lighter.  Citrus trees and their fruit are the embodiment of sunshine. Growing in the warmth of climates found close to the equator, citrus fruits absorb the sun daily and bring us their fruit amid winter, just when that lightness is needed the most.

Research on the Effects of citrus fragrance on immune function and depressive states found that “citrus fragrance was more effective than antidepressants.” Similar animal research found that lemon essential oil reduces anxiety.

Essential oils can help support feelings of safety, optimism, and hope which may allow you to embrace positive feelings and let negative thoughts or events roll off of your back.  Essential oils may help you affirm your belief in yourself, your ability to make good things happen now and in the future, and in the positive aspects of your life. This begins by creating a safe space for you to feel your feelings.

1. Parasympathetic™

Parasympathetic™ calms your nervous system and helps you be present in the moment, to both your own body and to your mental, emotional, and physical needs.

This blend of clove and lime essential oils helps energize your physical body and mental capacity, helping to support the brain to embrace optimism and hope.

Your sympathetic “fight or flight” state turns on when survival and safety are threatened.  When you are stuck in a cycle of sympathetic dominance – and not activating your parasympathetic nervous system –  your body’s alert mechanism for survival remains on high and you can become trapped in a perception that you are not safe, which lays the groundwork for pessimism and negative thinking.

The parasympathetic system restores a sense of safety and balance which calms the brain and the body by activating your parasympathetic nervous system to help you identify and support your own needs.  The research found that – when stimulated, your vagus nerve releases anti-anxiety chemicals that help you focus on positive emotions, decrease mental distress, and improve mental well-being. 

Parasympathetic can help you develop learned optimism by thinking about your reactions to adversity in a new way and consciously challenging negative self-talk. This learned optimism involves cognitive restructuring, where you can help yourself and others become more optimistic by consciously challenging negative, self-limiting thinking and replacing it with more optimistic thought patterns.

When you do not feel safe envisioning a positive outcome, you might activate what is known as a freeze response of your nervous system – also known as disassociation so that you don’t feel pain.  This often includes a disconnection to your sense of smell.  Smelling essential oils, like Parasympathetic™can help thaw the freeze response and restore your ability to sense your environment and feel safe in it.  This sense of embodiment and safety may help allow you to better feel engaged, attentive, and present in the moment, which may help you avoid worrying about future events and things that are outside of your control.

 Apply Parasympathetic™ over the vagus nerve (behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone) to activate the vagus nerve.  This helps discharge energy and shift out of the frozen state into the healing parasympathetic.

2Small Intestine Support™

Essential oils, like Small Intestine Support™, can help you identify and support healthy mental, physical, and emotional boundaries for yourself and others to ensure the most optimistic outcome.

The citrus oils contained in Small Intestine Support™ help to lift your mood and clear your energy so that you do not take on or carry negative emotions or a pessimistic mindset for others.  For example, Tangerine is known as “the oil of cheer”, as it evokes qualities of joyfulness, is capable of lifting dark moods and promoting a lightness of heart. 

On the physical level, the small intestine plays a critical role in the digestion process, absorbing and assimilating key nutrients while preventing harmful pathogens and toxins from entering the body.

On an emotional level, the small intestine plays a similarly discerning role with emotions, helping to understand experiences and determine healthy and appropriate relationships and boundaries.

It is also an area where we can hold deep childhood scars of rejection, abandonment, or abuse; negative thoughts fueled by feelings of lack of self-worth, low self‐esteem, loneliness, neglect, and anxieties about survival and success with can interfere with our ability to identify and support healthy boundaries.

Small Intestine Support™ blend supports the healthy functioning of the small intestine as it sorts and transforms food, feelings, and ideas into useful ingredients for the body/mind.  It also helps correct imbalances where you are overly in tune with other’s criticism, feelings, or opinions at the expense of your own.

Small Intestine Support™ can be smelled or applied around the ears.  You can start on the bottom of the ear at the earlobes and gently massage upward along the exterior of the ear, hitting many of the major reflexology points.  This article and chart show specific points on the ears for specific issues.

3. Heart™ 

Heart™ balances the heart to enhance compassion and support, integrate and reset all the systems of the body, including supporting feelings of receptivity to love and praise.

Your heart integrates and balances your physical, emotional, and mental bodies, providing blood to every cell and every organ.  It also serves as a complex information processing center, influencing brain function, the nervous system, the hormonal system, and most of the body’s major organs.  When any part of your body isn’t functioning at an optimal level, your heart has to work harder.  For example, when your body is in a state of stress, it needs more oxygen which increases your heart rate.  Your heart is your body’s reset button, but a state of constant stress can fatigue the heart and compromise our ability to reset, leading to inflammation, infections, toxicity, and heart disease.

By returning your heart to balance, you support the cardiovascular and circulatory system; regenerate the structure of your heart, and help reset the homeostatic mechanism for your entire body. Heart™ is formulated with powerful calming oils, including Jasmine, an oil found to be as calming as the anti-anxiety drug valium, according to a 2010 study.  Jasmine also has a mildly sedative and calming effect allowing it to alleviate anxious thoughts, relieve stress, and ease depression.  Jasmine oil actually stimulates the brain, helping to uplift the mood, and promoting feelings of self-confidence and optimism.

Heart™  blend also contains Neroli which is also known to soothe anxiety and frantic thoughts calm negative emotional responses and support optimism.

Apply Heart™ over your heart (left side of the chest) to balance the heart and support, integrate, and reset all the systems of the body, including mental clarity, physical health, and emotional balance. Heart™ blend also supports feelings of open-heartedness, expansiveness, and receptivity while mitigating loneliness, sadness, and grief.

As you take a deep breath and breathe in Heart™, try to breathe in the deep sense of worthiness and allow yourself to receive love and praise.  As you slowly exhale, allow your breath to carry out any patterns of low self-worth or self-limiting beliefs to write in a gratitude journal that shows increased optimism.

4. Uplift

Uplift™ blend helps balance your energy, boost your mood, alleviate depression, and promote feelings of optimism. It also helps lift you out of tired and low emotions to help you embrace the positive, align with greater health and intuition, and support optimal energetic alignment.

Uplift™ was specifically formulated with oils that assist in building courage, confidence, and self-esteem and returning a sense of calm, joy, and peace to our lives.  It inspires hope in those who have temporarily lost their optimism and helps users overcome their fear and reclaim their potential.  When we have more courage to take on new things and/or change, we are better able to release old patterns that are not working for us.

Uplift™ blend contains a proprietary formulation of organic and/or wild-crafted essential oils of Frankincense, Blue Tansy, Roman Chamomile, Ylang Ylang, Lime, Mandarin, Lavender, and Rose in a base of fractionated coconut oil.  Frankincense is believed to improve mental resilience and self-acceptance.  It may also help to pacify feelings of fear and anxiety that can cloud one’s sense of judgment and optimism. 

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About The Author

Jodi Cohen

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.