Emotions, Feelings, and the Limbic System

Emotions can be difficult and even scary. It is so much easier to suppress emotions than to recognize, feel, and process them. However, the ability to recognize, feel, process, and release emotions will enable you to function in a more positive and successful state so you can live free to create the life you desire.

We learn about and develop emotions from birth, through early childhood development and onward. Which means that helping children recognize emotions and learn to process emotions is one of the most powerful gifts you can give as a parent or caregiver.

It also means that if you didn’t develop and utilize effective techniques to process your emotions early on, you may have some catching up to do. Don’t worry. I will give you easy tools to use so you can learn how to process your emotions in a healthy way. Read more here: The age of emotion.

When talking about emotions, we must mention the limbic system. The limbic system is a complex set of structures that lie on both sides of the thalamus, just under the cerebrum.  It includes the hypothalamus, the hippocampus, the amygdala, and several other nearby areas.  It appears to be primarily responsible for our emotional life, and has a lot to do with the formation of memories. It is the emotional brain and supports five major functions: emotions, behavior, motivation, long-term memory, and sense of smell.

Plants can be used to tap directly into the limbic system to stimulate memories and emotions. As you inhale their essential oils, the tiny molecules enter the nasal cavity and pass by the olfactory bulb. Your olfactory bulb is a part of your limbic system and therefore your response to an aroma is going to be emotional before it can be rational.

What does this mean? It means that when you smell the essential oil from plants you can recall memories, both bad and good. If they are bad, you can use these oils to help you release cellular memories stored in the body, allowing you to process and move past them.

We all regularly come in contact with reactions to smells. You walk into the house at dinner time and smell your favorite meal being prepared. Your emotions are instantly triggered to the fond memories you have of that meal and you feel joy.

You smell the cologne your grandfather used to wear. It instantly triggers emotions based on your relationship. If you had a good relationship, you may feel emotions like love and joy. If you had a bad relationship or he has passed away, you may feel anger or sadness.

Using positive affirmations with oils can make their effects even more powerful. As you connect a positive thought or affirmation to a physical smell, you begin to connect the two and establish a more intentional experience. There are multiple plants used for their essential oil that we can use in our emotional support toolbox. Diffuse 4-6 drops of your chosen essential oil up to 1 hour three times daily.

Let’s talk teens. It’s no secret that teens are emotional. Lots of changes are going on in their bodies. They are transitioning from childhood into adulthood and often struggle with being dependent on their parents while having a strong desire to be independent. They may also feel overwhelmed by the emotional and physical changes they are experiencing. Communicating your love for your child is an effective way to help your teen during difficult life changes.

Giving teenagers tools to release unwanted emotions can be very helpful in creating an emotionally healthy teen, allowing them to feel and process in a healthy manner. Movement can be used in various forms of intensity to work through or release different emotions. Many people find high-intensity fitness, such as running or sports like boxing, successful in releasing stressors and frustration, while others may find slow intentional movement, like yoga, great for releasing anxious feelings and cultivating a sense of peace.

Dr. Perkus has integrated 20 years of clinical experience with 15 years of work with essential oils into a technique that is easy to use by almost anyone.  Even people who have never used oils before or don’t know the first thing about Psychology have been blown away by how simple and powerful it is.  Additionally, those in the helping professions will be able to integrate it into their existing treatment model. 

The Aroma Freedom Technique (AFT) uses the power of scent to gently shift awareness away from negative thoughts, feelings, and memories, and to initiate a positive outlook and attitude.  This results in greater confidence and inner freedom.  When we are no longer stuck in negative mindsets, we are free to create the life we desire. This twelve-step process is yet another tool you can use to help you release emotions and memories that are holding you back and allow you to move forward. It is a simple process that starts with setting an intention or goal you would like to achieve, one you don’t believe is very attainable. You rate your intention on a scale of 1 to 10 and move through a series of steps incorporating your essential oils, which will allow you to move through different emotions that are limiting you. You can use very common oils such as Frankincense, Lavender, Lemon, and Peppermint to help tap into these deep memories and emotions and release them to foster growth.

Lets talk about some of many plants that assist us in setting deep into our soul, assisting us in moving forward from survival, into higher states of reality.

Inhalation of essential oils is the best way to assist with emotional problems such as stress, anxiety and depression as it reaches the limbic system in the brain quickly. Inhalation also enables essential oils to travel down to the lungs, allowing them to help with breathing difficulties or illness in the respiratory system. In addition, essential oils will reach blood circulation this way – being absorbed via the mucous linings of the respiratory system and entering gaseous exchange in the alveoli of the lungs – thus transferring to blood. From there they can also circulate to cells in the rest of the body. Olfaction (smell) works via chemoreceptors. The sense of smell helps us to taste and enjoy food. In fact, if you lose your sense of smell (anosmia) food will taste very bland because these senses are intrinsically linked and 80% of taste actually comes from smell. Smell also warns us of danger – e.g. smoke (fire) or enables us to tell if our food has gone bad. Generally nice smells really do make life more pleasurable – the smell of food, flowers and essential oils all help to enrich our life.

The science: how essential oils help mental focus, clarity, and memory.

  • study in 1990 showed that smelling peppermint essential oil enhanced alertness, focus, and concentration. (It should be noted, later research showed that eating peppermint did not have the same effect as smelling it did in the previous study.)
  • Another study confirmed that smelling peppermint enhanced accuracy of memory.
  • An English study that found that rosemary essential oil increased memory and alertness.
  • This Japanese study found that inhaling lavender essential oil while on breaks actually increased concentration when going back to work.
  • This British study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience showed that inhaling lavender essential oil before doing math problems helped subjects complete the problems faster and more accurately than the control group, while inhaling rosemary essential oil helped subjects be more alert and therefore they completed the problems faster than the control group.
  • study on children with ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder) found that inhaling vetiver and cedarwood essential oils improved brain patterns and decreased ADHD symptoms (inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity).
  • This Japanese study found that diffusing lemon and rosemary essential oils in the morning and lavender and orange essential oils in the evening improved cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients.
  • Lemon was shown to increase typing accuracy in another Japanese study. Workers made 54 percent fewer errors while smelling lemon, 33 percent fewer errors while smelling jasmine, and 20 percent fewer errors while smelling lavender.

Now that we have covered a little science, let’s dive into these powerful plants and talk about how they can be used. Lets talk about a couple emotions and how you might use these plants to help. Here we will take a look at forgiveness and courage.

“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” Marianne Williamson

In a life full of relationships, there will be many times we need to forgive. When we are bothered by the actions of others in our past, we are filled with anger, hate, resentment, and emotional pain. Forgiveness is a way to release all of those negative emotions from your inner body and begin the healing process. One useful technique is to combine deep breathing while inhaling Forgiveness essential oil.

Deep breathing can be as easy as stopping what you are doing and taking a slow deep inhale, feeling your lungs expand and fill up. Then release your breath just as slowly as you took it in. Repeat this two more times. Herbs useful to help with process forgiveness are Melissa, Geranium, Frankincense, Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood,  Coriander, Angelica, Lavender, Bergamot, Lemon, Ylang ylang, Jasmine, Helichrysum, Roman chamomile, Palmarosa, and Rose. You can use one or all of these if you have them available. These plant combinations provide an aroma that supports the ability to forgive yourself and others while letting go of negative emotions, an important part of personal growth.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Who am I?”

You may have asked yourself and felt this many different times throughout your life, in the transition from a child to a teenager or teenager to an adult; when graduating from college and search for a career; when entering a relationship and needing to figure out who you are as you intertwine your life with someone else’s life. 

Orange, Tangerine, Ylang ylang, Royal Hawaiian sandalwood, Jasmine, Lemongrass, Spruce, Bitter orange, and Neroli may help stimulate memory response and help you reconnect with your own identity, which is one of the first steps to finding emotional balance.

Clary Sage oil is mainly comprised of linalool, linalyl acetate, caryophyllene, a-terpineol, geraniol, neryl acetate, sclareol and germacrene D. Clary sage is an antidepressant, antispasmodic, deodorant, emmenagogue (stimulates blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus; some stimulate menstruation. Women use emmenagogues to stimulate menstrual flow when menstruation is absent for reasons other than pregnancy, such as hormonal disorders or conditions like oligomenorrhea), nerve tonic and sedative. It is considered a euphoric. It is great for treating anxiety, stress and depression. It calms the mind, yet uplifts the mood, making it a balancing oil. It should be avoided during pregnancy (because of its estrogen action), however it can help with labor – reducing anxiety and tension. This is an essential oil I believe every woman should utilize because it is beneficial for PMS, menstrual cramps, promotes menstruation when it is delayed, and helps with menopause. It is also used in skincare for oily skin as it regulates sebum production, and for preventing excessive sweating.

“Inhale courage, exhale fear.”

Courage is something we all need, at every age and stage of our lives.

Courage to:

– take our first steps.
– step onto the school bus for the first time.  
– get through our first presentation.
– dream.
– start a family.
– build your own business.

The opposite of courage is inertia. Saying the affirmation can help you move from inertia to courage. Diffusing Black spruce, Camphor, Blue tansy, Frankincense, and Geranium for an inspiring and calming aroma or apply topically to experience this empowering and uplifting fragrance.

If you have done an AFT session, we would love to hear from you and to hear about your experience. Please feel free to contact us! We hope you find this information educational and encouraging.

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