Study Reveals the Smell of Nature Improves Wellbeing

Slow down and smell the roses.

Smelling nature can be calming and good for your wellbeing.

(Budimir Jevtic /

Spending time in the Great Outdoors is a full-on sensory experience with nature’s vistas, endless skies, majestic forests, the sounds of the wind and wildlife, and the warm feeling of sunbeams resting on your face. 

In addition to nature’s pleasant sights, sounds, and sensations, the familiar smells of nature, like freshly cut grass, woodsy pine trees, the musky pre-rainstorm air, can be just as alluring, reported CBS News. In fact, a recent study, published in the journal Ambio, found that nature doesn’t just smell good, its fragrances make people feel good as well.

The scent-memory connection
The researchers from The University of Kent in the UK sent 194 participants to relax in the woodlands throughout the four seasons. The participants reported feeling relaxed and rejuvenated when they smelled what they described as “fresh air” or “earthy” scents.

According to these smells invoked pleasant memories from their childhoods. For example, some of the outdoorsy aromas brought back memories of carefree childhood summer vacations. Pine trees made some participants think about Christmas.

While it is well known that being in nature makes people feel good, this study was the first to focus on the olfactory aspect of the outdoors. The results showed that there may be more to smell than people give it credit for. 

The researchers wrote in the study: “We found smells affected multiple domains of well-being with physical well-being discussed most frequently, particularly in relation to relaxation, comfort, and rejuvenation.”

No smell is better than a bad one
The same study uncovered the relaxing effect of lack of odors, according to CBS News. People feel more settled in a smell-free zone, with this result possibly linked to the absence of bad-smelling urban odors, like pollution, that interfere with wellbeing.

The study found that even the absence of pollution and unwanted smells that are associated with urban was perceived by the participants to improve their physical wellbeing 

Implications for the future
Dr. Jessica Fisher, study co-author and postdoctoral research associate at Kent’s Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, pointed out these results could be actualized in future practice and policy, according to the organization Open Access Government

“The study provides findings that can inform the work of practitioners, public health specialists, policy-makers and landscape planners looking to improve wellbeing outcomes through nature. Small interventions could lead to public health benefits,” she explained to

So, when it comes to enjoying a hike in the woods, a picnic under the open skies, or a day at the beach, it pays to keep one's eyes and ears, but also one’s nose, open.

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