5 Smells That Make You Kinder, Happier, Nicer

Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 favorite, brought back by popular demand. It was originally published on November 9, 2012. Enjoy!

Cinnabon knows what it’s doing. The smell of baking bread can make us kinder, says a study from Journal of Social Psychology by scientists from the University of Southern Brittany in France.

Wanting to test the notion that smells can influence behavior, the scientists had eight young men and women stand outside either a bakery or a clothing store, says the Independent. The participants were instructed to pretend to be searching for something in their bags and then drop an object (a glove, a handkerchief) while walking in front of a stranger.

People stopped to pick up the object about 77 percent of the time in front of the bakery, versus 52 percent of the time outside the clothing store, according to the researchers who observed the proceedings from some 60 feet away.

Eight participants is a small number but the scientists did repeat the experiment some 400 times, notes the Daily Mail. From their observations, they state that

“Our results show that, in general, spontaneous help is offered more in areas where pleasant ambient smells are spread.”

“This experiment confirms the role of ambient food odours on altruism.”

One wonders at possible practical applications of this study. Could the answer to us all getting along, dealing with anger management, turning the other cheek for each other and so forth — to nothing other than world peace! — be to waft the scent of bread baking around?

While contemplating such, here are four more smells that have been found to lift up our spirits.



Researchers from Wheeling Jesuit University found that the smell of peppermint boosted both mood and motivation in competitive athletes by making them run faster, do more push-ups and squeeze a hand grip harder.


Spice Apple

Best Apples for Baking

The smell of American spice apple has been found to help reduce blood pressure.†Perhaps that’s why a cup of warm apple cider seems so inviting, not to mention the smell of an apple pie baking?



Lavender hill mob

No wonder some refer to this smell as nature’s own “chill-out oil.” Lavender scent has been found to help reduce stress and relieve pain (possibly).



Coffee Beans

Or more precisely, roasted coffee beans: a†South Korean study found that this aroma reduces stress in rats. Scientists found that lab rats (who certainly have reason to be stressed) had lower stress levels after smelling roasted coffee beans.

As a serious coffee drinker, I would agree with this. But one has to wonder if not all smells are created equal for all people. My husband does not drink any coffee and is no big fan of the smell — but then, in some twenty years of daily contact with coffee’s aroma, he has never once complained.


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Photos: bread: Thinkstock; peppermint: Sir_Iwan; apples: Veganbaking.net; lavender: Billy Reed: coffee beans: Peg Waggener.


Andrea B.
Maya B8 months ago

The smell of fresh bread baking is so nice.

Tessa Dick
Tessa Dick9 months ago

thanks for the article.

Jim Ven
Jim V9 months ago

thanks for the article.

Mariah B.
Mariah B1 years ago

I wonder if there are any studies on cake. The smell of home baked cake always makes me happy. Though I guess the fresh bread smell lasts longer .

Mariah B.
Mariah B1 years ago

Hmm, better get baking some bread then :)

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Genre Chowder
Sanaa Naeem1 years ago

I wouldn't be surprised to see smells affect people so. Smell is one of the most, if not THE most, powerful senses we have. I don't recall if this is 100% true, but I heard that smell is processed in the brain in a more direct way in comparison to many of the other ways our other senses are.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill1 years ago

I would add baking yeast bread to that list too. Thanks!

Kathleen Morrison

and cinnamon is good for diabetes/high blood pressure too!

I slather on Lavender oil all the time. I have high stress, anger issues. It works. This is probably better for working toward world peace than baking bread, as that's a problem in itself -- having enough bread to go around -- would only end in violence in most circumstances.

Yuliya Grishina
Yuliya Grishina2 years ago

Thank you!