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Breathe in the smells of nature to improve your sense of well-being

What is it about our sense of smell that can both transport us back to grandma's cozy kitchen or send us fleeing, noses pinched shut, for fresh air? Aromas can be powerful. New research shows that the smells of nature can improve your sense of well-being. Viv Williams has details in this episode of NewsMD's "Health Fusion."

A mossy trail winds through woods on a summer day.
In every season, nature rewards its visitors with smells that may help boost well-being. (Dreamstime/TNS)
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ROCHESTER — Picture this: A deep lake shrouded with the mist of a summer morning. Or a mountain forest in early fall with leaves falling gently around you. With a good imagination you can visualize those scenes and maybe even smell them.

A new study shows that the aromas of nature may be good for you because they help you feel relaxed, joyful, and healthy.

Research led by the University of Kent’s Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) found that smells are an important part of the well-being benefits you can get from interacting with nature, because they often connect us to memories and specific ecological characteristics and processes, such as blooms in spring or rotting leaves in fall.

"Nature is a multi-sensory experience and our research demonstrates the potential significance of smell for well-being," says Dr Jessica Fisher, a Postdoctoral Research Associate at DICE. "The study provides findings that can inform the work of practitioners, public health specialists, policy-makers and landscape planners looking to improve well-being outcomes through nature. Small interventions could lead to public health benefits."

In addition to finding that the smells of nature are beneficial, the researchers also found that the absence of certain smells are good for you too. They say that people may get a healthy boost from not smelling garbage, pollution and other unpleasant odors associated with urban areas. The cleansing away of those city smells may increase relaxation and reduce stress.

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The study is published in Ambio, a Journal of Environment and Society.

For more stories about the potential health benefits of nature, check out the links below.

What's so scary about spiders and snakes? For some people those animals trigger extreme fear and anxiety. In this episode of NewsMD's "Health Fusion," Viv Williams explores a study that shows how a connection to nature may help ease those phobias.
Exposure to nature — city greenspaces, suburban prairies or even natural forests — may help kids breathe better. Get the details in this episode of NewsMD's "Health Fusion with Viv Williams."

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Follow the  Health Fusion podcast on  Apple,   Spotify and  Google podcasts. For comments or other podcast episode ideas, email Viv Williams at  vwilliams@newsmd.com. Or on Twitter/Instagram/FB @vivwilliamstv.

MORE HEALTH FUSION:
When you sprain your ankle or have an infection inflammation helps to heal tissues. But when inflammation is chronic, or long term, it can contribute to conditions such as heart disease and autoimmune diseases. Researchers have found a link between chronic inflammation and low levels of vitamin D. Viv Williams has details in this episode of NewsMD's "Health Fusion."

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