“Why Candles Are A Mental Health Essential”
When you’re having a bad day – is it too much to ask for a bit of light relief? An escape from reality. To have all of your troubles just melt away. If only it was that easy – am I right?! But what if it is?
Let me start from the beginning. Hi, I’m Mike and I’m a candle addict. During the last 18 months, I like many others, used candles to add some razzmatazz to the same four walls, and swapped commuter traffic jams with candle-infused bubble baths. These little pick-me ups and personal indulgences quickly became mental health essentials in my weekly routine. Adding a sense of ritual and reward, in what felt like a monotonous cyclone of self-doubt and anxiety, amongst the wider context of the world going to shit.
But what I came to realise was, I wasn’t alone. I didn’t need to go to an AA-style meeting to find other candle addicts – they’re everywhere. So many people are obsessed with the big names or uncovering the next up and coming indie brand with a ‘I was there first’ mentality. They happily burn away 24/7, make their own as a therapeutic hobby or collect ‘status candles’ for their Insta – looking at you Boy Smells and Overose! This craze has reached fever pitch. So much so that the Global scented candle market has soared since the start of the pandemic. With so many people now seemingly unable to live without them, it got me thinking - is there more to the humble candle beyond just a nice smell and #shelfie appeal?
Well, I did a bit of digging, and this is what I found. Bear in mind I’m no psychologist or neuroscience expert – and I’m guessing neither are you – so I’m going to keep this simples. Ever smelt something like a passer-by’s perfume and immediately been reminded of a distant memory? Well, that’s because smell stimulates people’s limbic system - the part of the brain that stores our memories and processes our emotions. What’s really interesting though is that this same sensory process also activates our imagination. But instead of memory recall, it inspires free spontaneous trains of thought - or daydreams. In fact, scent has been scientifically proven to inspire daydreams and is considered the most powerful sensory trigger for fantasizing.
So while we’re all out their buying candles to make our home smell nice, their scents can actually inspire us to have a 'mental escape’. Who knew?! But you may be wondering ‘don’t daydreams have a bit of a bad rep’? You know - 'away with the fairies' or 'get your head out of the clouds!'. People thinking you’re lazy, distracted or even disinterested... Well believe it or not, not all daydreams are bad. Research shows that being alone with our thoughts (positive thoughts) can actually have beneficial impacts on our mental wellbeing, emotional resilience, creative ingenuity and general mood state.
It’s important to stress that I’m not stating that candles are a cure for mental health – trust me its not. Candle or no candle, we all have good days and bad days. But positive daydreams are considered a type of personal 'dream therapy' and can offer 'therapeutic entertainment', with scent playing a major role in activating our brains ‘daydream’ mode.
Makes sense then that we see are seeing a much more evocative candle name than Vanilla enter the market; names like ‘2am walking in the city’ or ‘Morning Sex’ – and even ‘This smells like my vagina’ – but that’s a whole other story, so let’s not side track (Google it after!). These names are intriguing and inspirational but also of a positive nature – helping promote escapism and dream therapy. I mean would you buy a candle called ‘raging anxiety attack’ or ‘the smell of failure’? No of course not. So it’s obvious that there is much more to candles than many people realise.
While some nah-sayers may be reading this thinking, what a load of psychobabble bullshit or ‘it’s just a fucking candle mate - yeesh’ - let me just clarify that we all spend 47% of our waking time daydreaming. 47%! And they’re proven to produce healthy amounts of dopamine and oxytocin – you know the feel good stuff. So next time you buy a candle, think less what do I want my house to smell like – and think more about where you want the scent to take you when you’re feeling low. Basically what I’m saying is if you’re gonna get addicted to anything, try something legal and beneficial to your mental health like some TLC - Tender Loving Candles.
Mike Tristram (He / Him)
Instagram : @Daydreamin_for_days