Having problems focusing? Need to concentrate? Have a deadline coming up for a task or project? Kids can’t settle down long enough to do their homework? Well essential oils could be the solution you’re looking for. Almost everyone has heard that essential oils can help you to relax and sleep better, but did you know that they can make you more alert and motivated too?
It’s no surprise that in order to feel ready to tackle a task, our mood needs to be calm, as anxiety and stress can become a major obstacle to feeling focused and motivated, so emotions and motivation are very much entwined, and all controlled by the limbic system.
So how do essential oils help? They stimulate the limbic system which controls memory, motivation, emotions, behaviour and sense of smell, as well as several unconscious physiological functions including breathing, blood pressure and heart rate.
Basically, olfactory receptor neurons in the nostrils absorb the volatile particles, called esters, which are what produces the odour and gives food its flavour. This information is then related to olfactory bulbs located at the back of the nose, which have sensory receptors that are actually part of the brain, and messages are sent to the brain which stimulate the limbic system structures (memory, motivation, etc as explained above), as well as the neo-cortex which controls conscious thought.
So which essential oils are the best for helping you to feel ready to accomplish that task or deadline? Here’s the top contenders, depending on your mindset to start with, whether you need calming or energising, but all with the same objective, to help improve motivation and focus:
Frankincense is perfect to ease stress, anxiety, restlessness, impatience, irritability and anger. It calms the mind of distractions, lifts brain fog, and improves mental clarity, concentration and focus. Research has shown that Frankincense essential oil can improve long and short-term memory and improve learning functions. It is known to have benefits for brain health.
Lemon is recognisable for its zesty, energising, invigorating and refreshing odour. It promotes mental awareness, clears a fuzzy head, and elevates the mood. A study in Japan demonstrated that work performance by typists who inhaled lemon oil far exceeded that of their counterparts (who did not inhale the aroma), as they made 54% less errors. It was also shown in a laboratory test on rats, to help retain focus and concentration for longer, and to increase information retention and thereby memory.
Peppermint oil is a stimulant and can reduce nervousness and anxiety, in addition to boosting energy levels. It is believed to stimulate the area of the brain responsible for alertness, providing mental clarity and, according to studies, improves focus, memory, problem-solving, reasoning and attention span.
Rosemary oil is well known for its ability to increase brain function, and in particular memory. Its soothing scent is a stimulant, giving a much needed energy boost, whilst improving memory and mental alertness, and helping you to concentrate on the task at hand. The primary component (over 30%) of Rosemary is 1,8-cineole, proven to enhance the brain’s ability to absorb and retain information.
Lavender Oil is the “Jack of all trades”. Traditionally used to promote relaxation and improve sleep, it’s relaxing abilities can also help to calm the mind, decrease stress, boost stamina and memory, and promote clear thinking, and thus concentration and focus. A Japanese study found that workers who inhaled lavender oil during their break, were able to return refreshed and to regain their concentration and focus without any of the usual associated deterioration in the afternoon’s work. Lavender oil is particularly helpful to those suffering from ADHD to reduce hyperactivity and improve focus, and to quiet an overactive mind.
So next time you need to regain focus and concentration, don’t stress out. Take a few drops of your chosen oil, or a blend of your favourites, add to a diffuser, sit back, relax, and inhale deeply. Alternatively you may choose just to add a few drops to a tissue to smell this, or even add a few drops to a carrier oil and dab on the wrists. Whichever your prefered method, essential oils are here to help.