As you well know, we always love hearing from our customers here at The Library of Fragrance. So we were delighted when Luan Pessall contacted us to tell us about how she was incorporating some of our scents into her work as a clinical psychologist. Luan very kindly agreed to share the details with us - and you - in this fascinating post about her work, the sense of smell, and how it can aid our mindfulness in daily life...
Hi, I’m Luan, a Clinical Psychologist based in South Wales. I’m a great fan of Library of Fragrance personally and first found the brand through it’s American founder company Demeter. They hit the press a few years ago with their ‘weird’ fragrances such as Dirt and Grass but there’s a purity to many of their scents which make many people go ‘ooh, that just reminds me of ……’ This got me thinking about the people I work with and that smell is not just about the perfume that someone wears but about the everyday experience of smells around us.
I was teaching a group of professionals in London recently and we covered the concept of Mindfulness. At its simplest, mindfulness means a way of keeping your mind in the present moment rather than worrying about lots of other things, and suspending judgement of what is happening. Smell can be a part of this. I decided to practice what I preach and whilst travelling on the tube (an experience I don’t generally enjoy) I just observed what I could smell. It ranged from delicious to less than pleasant (when I thought about it afterwards but at the time I just considered the smells ‘interesting.’) I could smell brake dust and oil, cold air, and that funny smell which only happens when the train is between stations in the tunnels. I could smell garlic and curry, bubblegum and mint, wool coats and leather and newspaper ink to name but a few. So, we always take these things in whether we like it or not, so what if we could change it to reset our mindset?
I work with lots of different people of many different ages from children to adults but the one thing they all have in common is that they can usually tell you what smells they like and dislike, or what mood a certain scent will put them into.
Often I see people who are struggling with anxiety after a car accident and struggle to go back to their daily routines. I found Demeter & The Library of Fragrance scents through a book called ‘Happier at Home’ by Gretchen Rubin, who used the fragrances as a way to increase enjoyment of her home environment. I thought about so many of my clients who told me ‘I used to enjoy driving but now I hate getting the car.’ One way to quickly change their travel environment was through smell. It’s often a quick reset to remind them to breathe deeply, take a moment and remember that they can do this and stay calm.
I investigate the kind of smells the person likes, that make them feel calm or happy - and I take it from there. Just from my own experience, these smells tend to fall into a few similar categories, such as holiday smells: the smell of suncream, the sea or Salt Air - a personal favourite of mine from The Library of Fragrance - coconut or tropical flowers. Many people like smells from the outdoor environment, such as grass, gardens or stables. Smells of coffee shops have become a favourite as it is often a place people use to take a breather. Finally, smells of childhood are often evocative for people and they feel a sense of safety and calm when a scent transports them back there.
So armed with the person’s preferences I take lots of my Library of Fragrance bottles along with me when I meet with them at some point during the therapy and spend a session sniffing them and combining them until we find a mix that hits the right note with the person - and I send them away, happily sniffing a piece of card or cotton wool, ready to put it in their car vent and change their car smell. Whilst it is only part of the therapy, it cheers people up and helps them on their way with the difficult task of overcoming their fears.
I think the only time I couldn’t find exactly the right scent for someone was when she said that she had grown up on a farm and the most comforting smell she could think of was ‘warm cow.’ That was a tricky one!
My children are also growing up surrounded by perfume and given that I change my scent daily depending on my mood or tasks I wondered what memory my kids would form of my scent. They love to guess which perfume I am wearing that day and they’re pretty spot-on at guessing (their favourite is The Library of Fragrance Vanilla Ice Cream). One day I wondered if they would notice that I had not put any perfume on so I asked them to guess when I had not done so. Their answer? ‘You smell of Mummy’. For me, you can’t get better than that.
Dr Luan Pessall is a Chartered Clinical Psychologist in independent practice in Cardiff.
Mountain Air for outdoorsy types, who enjoy fresh air
Salt Air for reminiscence of breezy beach walks
Wet Garden for those with a love of gardening and springtime
Play Doh for a blast of childhood