I recently found an article describing a research study that concluded that certain pleasant odors can trigger positive emotions. The study specifically looked at the smell of freshly baked bread and altruism.
[Let me take a moment to make a small interjection – these “common sense studies” always make me wonder why researches decided to create an entire study on such topics and how they even came up with those ideas! But this is a different topic for a different time. We’re talking about more important issues now… freshly baked bread!]
So in the study, strangers were more like to help someone who dropped objects they were holding when they were standing in front of a bakery (77%) vs. a clothing store (52%). When we talk about the effects of pleasant odors on the human brain, we can probably say that they trigger warm and fuzzy feelings, and when we feel warm and fuzzy, we act in warm and fuzzy ways.
[I wish I could say the same about my dog… he feels pretty warm and fuzzy to me but he can get snappy when another dog tries to steal his bone or toy. Anyway, I am digressing again.]
So what does this mean for us? So if we’re not thinking concretely about this article, we know that it does not mean that we should walk around with loaves of freshly baked bread in our pockets so people can be kinder to us. As I see it, this is not about bread, but about our ability to create environments that are condusive of positive experiences.
I invite you to think about the different contexts and environements that surround you or that you contribute to creating everyday. What’s your role at work in creating positive experiences for you, your coworkers, and supervisors? What about at home? What about with yourself, within your own mind?
So how do we define what fosters positive experiences? I believe it could range from concrete experiences, like literally having pleasant aromas in a room, or in the attitudes we have towards others and the way we carry ourselves. A smile ir more likely to ellicit positive emotions in others than a frown. Perhaps certain cheerful colors can have the same effect on some people. I took this article to mean that there is so much we can do to have positive and motivating experiences and relationships (with ourselves and others) and sometimes we aren’t even aware of the possiblities.
In thinking about how you can trigger positivity in your life, what are the possibilities you envision?