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What Makes You Happy?

By Jodi Cohen

A joyful person with arms outstretched celebrating on a sunny beach with clear skies and the ocean in the background.

“Would you share things that make you happy?  I’m making a list to try and explore.”

A friend posted this on Facebook and as I started to answer, I realized what a powerful tool this list could be.

I have always struggled with anxiety but as my teenage daughter prepares to leave for college, I have been feeling a bit depressed and unsure of how to shift that.

It quickly occurred to me that if I took the time to document the things that made me happy, I could try to fill my life with more of the things that brought me joy.

I was quick to respond with my obvious answers – Being outside, my dogs, Yoga, Heartfelt conversations, Really good books, Sunshine, Travel, Trying new things – the basic easy answers.

But it had been years since I really had the luxury of time to ponder and explore what made me happy, so I kept editing my comment to add to the list:

  • The smell of freshly brewed coffee
  • Savoring the last page of a good book
  • Hiking
  • Mountains
  • Wild flowers
  • The feel of sand on your bare feet
  • Hearing the rain falling outside while you are cozy and warm inside
  • Deep talks
  • Long walks
  • Campfires
  • Random acts of kindness
  • Hot showers
  • Waking up to the sun shining through the windows
  • The feeling of looking forward to something
  • Hugging someone after a long time apart

When I added sunrise and sunset I realized I had an opportunity to be happy multiple times every day.

There was something about this exercise that felt very empowering, so I decided to reach out to my friend to learn more of the backstory.  She also experienced recent grief and had attended an event to designed to teach supportive strategies to help her feel better.

One such strategy was writing two letters to yourself – one from a place of fear and anxiety and another from a place of joy and excitement.

As one of my best friends and Upgirl founder Naomi Panzer likes to share, anxiety and excitement yield almost identical physical responses in the body – racing heartbeat, butterflies in the stomach, sweaty palms, and nervousness – symptoms that result from nervous system arousal or stimulation of the “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system.

Since anxiety and excitement are so physiologically similar, we can help shift between the two states by shifting our interpretation. And the “happy List” heIps you focus your attention on the positive.


Happy SmeIIs

Smell seems to correlate with happiness.

We associate the smell of freshly roasted coffee with energy.

Pine trees with Christmas.

Roses with love.

As you may recall, your sense of smell connects directly to the part of your brain that regulates the release of several major hormones, including the hormones that support happiness.

READ THIS NEXT: How Smell Stimulates Your Brain 

Research has found that certain smells can enhance how we feel which is consistent with research which estimates your sense of smell to be 10,000 times more acute than your other senses. For example, the smell of lavender has been shown to reduce stress and the smell of peppermint has been found to boost mood and concentration.


Essential OiIs for Happiness

Smell travels through your olfactory system to your hypothalamus a region of your brain that acts as your hormonal control center, by way of your amygdala in your limbic system.  When you smell an essential oil, it stimulates your hypothalamus to release hormones that trigger a rapid emotional response. (More HERE).

Some essential oils that have been shown to improve happiness include:


Research has found that that pine essential oil – often associated with the winter holidays – helps reduce stress. A study conducted at Japan’s Kyoto University found that “forest bathing” pine-filled woods significantly reduced anxiety and depression.  Vibrant Blue Oils Sovereign Tea™ blend contains Pine Needles along with other trees with pine like needles, such as Douglas Fir and Cedarwood.

READ THIS NEXT: Strengthen Immune Barriers with Essential Oils


Citrus Essential oils have been shown to lift mood, calm anxiety, alleviate depression and literally make you feel lighter.

Research on the Effects of citrus fragrance on immune function and depressive states found that “citrus fragrance was more effective than antidepressants.” Smelling citrus allowed depressive subjects to “markedly reduce” the doses of antidepressants necessary for the treatment of depression.

Additional research found that lemon oil relieves stress, boost energy and alertness. The study examined the anti-stress action of the essential oils of lavender, rose, and lemon by inducing stress in mice and found that “lemon oil had the strongest anti-stress effect”. A key constituent in Citrus Essential oils – d-limonene – is credited as nature’s stress reliever and known for its anxiolytic properties.

Vibrant Blue Oils Small Intestine™ blend, along with single oils like Lemon, Orange and Grapefruit are also good choices of citrus oils.

READ THIS NEXT: My Favorite Blend of Citrus Essential Oils


Stopping to Smell the Roses can prompt happiness. Research backs this up – Nobel Prize–winning researcher Linda Buck explored how different odors trigger different responses in your brain. For example, Buck found that Rose essential oil can counteract your brain’s fear response to predator odor. Her research found that smelling rose essential oil in the presence of predator odors (or other fear stimuli) can suppress your brain’s stress responses and hormonal signals.

Similarly, Lavender is known for its sedative, anxiety relieving and calming properties.  Its key constituent Linalool, helps activate your calming neurotransmitter GABA, which helps calm your mind and body.

READ THIS NEXT: Can Lavender Help You Sleep?


Peppermint essential oil helps to boost your focus and your energy level both mentally and physically.  Research from the University of Cincinnati found that inhaling peppermint oil increases mental accuracy by 28 percent.

Research on Modulation of cognitive performance and mood by aromas of peppermint and ylang-ylang found that peppermint oil enhanced mental alertness, cognition and mood. “Peppermint was found to enhance memory and increase alertness.” Another research paper on The Effect of Peppermint on Memory Performance suggests peppermint essential oils improve memory and retrieval in cognitive tasks requiring sustained focus.

You can find as a single essential oil. It is also found in Vibrant Blue Oils Breathe™, Blood Sugar Balance™, Circulation™, Digest™, Energize™, Focus™, Histamine Balance™, Large Intestine™, Liver™, Migraine Relief™, Nerve Repair™ and Sinus Support™ blends.

READ THIS NEXT: Essential Oils for ADD and ADHD


Rosemary essential oil, found in Vibrant Blue Oils Focus™ blend along with Adrenal®, Histamine Balance™, Immune Support™, and Thymus™ blends helps your brain and your memory work at top form. In addition to helping you focus and concentration, it may also help you relieve nervous exhaustion and stress-related illness.

For example, rosemary oil contains cineole, which increases blood flow in the brain, improving alertness, as demonstrated by a 2012 study published  in Therapeutic Advances in Pharmacology.

Fresh-cut Grass

Researchers in Australia found that a chemical released by freshly cut grass can cause people to become more relaxed and even feel joy.

Essential oils derived from the roots of plants or grasses like Angelica (found in Thyroid Support™ blend), Spikenard (found in Sleep™ blend), Citronella (found in Sleep™ blend), Lemongrass (found in Small Intestine Support™ blend), Palmarosa (found in Lymph™ blend), and Valerian Root (found in Bladder Support™ blend) can be calming and sedating, which is especially helpful when you feel overwhelmed or anxious or disconnected.

Vetiver essential oil – found in Vibrant Blue Oils Attention™, Histamine Balance™, Hormone Balance™ and PMS Support™ blends – is extracted from a perennial bunchgrass with very deep roots that help ground it to the Earth.  Vetiver’s deep roots may help to ground you mentally, physically and emotionally, often helping you explore the root of your emotional issues.

I hope this helps boost your happiness quotient.

Please share what makes you happy with us!


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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.