The Smells of Nature Promote Joy and Relaxation

News Brief: We know nature is good for the mind and body, and new research finds it’s not just what you see out there that promotes well-being

Robert Roy Britt
3 min readAug 3, 2022


Photo by the author

Few things soothe me more on a hot summer day than the smell of a pine forest at cooler altitudes. That unique earthy smell of fresh rain is a close second. Or, I don’t know, it’s really hard to beat the clean, salty scent that wafts in on an ocean breeze. And heck, even odor-free fresh air on a winter day, inhaled deeply, feels pretty damn good.

So I wasn’t surprised to see this new scientific finding that the scents of nature can make people feel relaxed, happy and healthy.

Scientists took 194 people out into Sherwood Forest and other UK woodlands, four separate times based on the seasons, and asked them to notice natural colors, textures, shapes and smells and write down what they liked or disliked. In subsequent interviews, the participants discussed, among other things they noticed, how the smells (woody, earthy and floral were commonly mentioned) elicited associations of, happiness, heightened awareness, calmness, relaxation and feeling better overall. Even lack of smell, perceived as a sign of cleanliness, generated positive feelings.

The results add to much other research on the benefits of nature—including the sights and sounds—to human health and well-being.

“Nature is a multisensory experience, and our research demonstrates the potential significance of smell for well-being,” said study leader Jessica Fisher, PhD, who researches environmental challenges in biodiversity management at the University of Kent.

One interesting aspect to the findings, detailed in the journal Ambi, is how the forest scents evoked pleasant childhood memories among some of the participants, suggesting that the smell of nature adds to the experience of being out there in unique ways compared to the visual experience.

“Smells influence multiple human wellbeing domains, often via a strong link to memory and specific ecological characteristics and processes that vary across space and time,” Fisher and her colleagues write.



Robert Roy Britt

Founder/editor of Wise & Well on Medium & the Writer's Guide at & author of Make Sleep Your Superpower