Woman enjoying the aroma from a hot cup of coffee.

How Scent Preferences Change with the Seasons

A few weeks ago, I had an interesting conversation with an aromatherapist, chatting about the world of seasonal scents. Our discussion naturally evolved into the fascinating topic of how our scent preferences transition with the changing seasons. Intrigued by the concept, I decided I wanted to explore this idea further.

In this article, I aim to share my discoveries about the dynamic relationship between scents and the seasons. From the crisp allure of autumn to the warmth of winter, let’s take a look at how the scents of each season reflect the shifts in weather, mood, and environment.

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Introduction to scent preferences

What scents gets your senses going? Is it the sweet homely scent of freshly baked cookies? Or maybe it’s simply the aroma of freshly ground coffee (my favourite!) Whatever it may be, scent is a powerful thing. Colleen Walsh from The Harvard Gazette writes that scent has the ability to transport us to different places, evoke memories, and even affect our mood. And just like our taste in fashion, music, or food, our scent preferences also change with the seasons.

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The connection between scent and seasons

Is it just me, or have you also noticed how certain scents seem more appropriate during specific times of the year? It’s like there’s an unwritten rule that says pumpkin spice is meant for autumn and fresh linen belongs in spring. But why is that? Well, it turns out that there’s a deep-rooted connection between scent and seasons. In the essay What the Anthropology of Smell Reveals About Humanity by Sarah Ives, she states that our olfactory system, which is responsible for our sense of smell, is closely linked to our memories and emotions. So, when we encounter a certain scent during a particular season, it triggers memories and emotions associated with that time of year. It’s like our brain is hardwired to associate certain scents with certain seasons.

The science behind seasonal scent preferences

So, what’s the science behind our seasonal scent preferences? Well, it all comes down to our brain and how it processes scent. When we encounter a scent, it travels through our nose and activates the olfactory bulb, which is part of the brain’s limbic system. The limbic system is responsible for emotions, memories, and motivation. Therefore, when we smell a specific scent associated with a particular season, it triggers the release of neurotransmitters that are linked to the corresponding emotions and memories. It’s like a little chemical reaction happening in our brain. This explains why certain scents can instantly transport us back to a specific time or place. This Science Friday article explains it in a lot more detail.

Woman standing behind white flowers.


What’s the first thing that comes to mind when we think of spring? It’s got to be the absolute joy that is fresh flowers! Floral scents like rose, jasmine, and magnolia are light, fresh, and perfect for shaking off the winter blues.

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When I think of summer, my mind whisks me away to somewhere tropical. I tend to crave light and airy scents like citrus or coconut during the summer months. Think long sunny days by the ocean paired with sweet fruity aromas like watermelon, pineapple, and mango. Not only are these scents juicy and vibrant, but they also bring a refreshing twist to hot days.

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Plate of summer fruit and drinks on a balcony overlooking a beach.
A clear glass of hot tea sitting on a platter with cinnamon and almonds.


As autumn unfolds, the air fills with the comforting embrace of warm and spicy scents like cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. Personally, I also associate the smell of hot chocolates and warm chai lattes with autumn. These scents conjure up a cosy atmosphere, perfectly complementing the falling leaves and pumpkin patches that adorn the season.

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Finally, winter is all about rich and comforting scents like vanilla, peppermint, and cedarwood. For me, the scents of winter always bring up bouts of nostalgia. Whether it’s the aroma of home cooking or the earthy scent of cedarwood, each fragrance captures the warmth and comfort of winter.

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A Christmas tea setting with two peppermint candy canes in the shape of a heart and cookies sitting atop the cup.

Using essential oils for seasonal aromatherapy

If you’re looking to incorporate seasonal scents into your daily life, essential oils are a fantastic option. Not only do they smell amazing, but they also have therapeutic properties that can enhance your well-being. In spring, try diffusing lavender essential oil to promote relaxation and relieve stress. For the summer, citrus essential oils like lemon or grapefruit can uplift your mood and energise you. In autumn, embrace the cosy vibes by diffusing cinnamon or clove essential oil. And in winter, indulge in the comforting aroma of vanilla or peppermint essential oil. You can use essential oils in a diffuser, add a few drops to a bath, or even create your own DIY scented candles.

The impact of scent on mood and wellbeing

It’s no secret that scent can have a profound impact on our mood and overall well-being. One of my favourite times to use essential oils is during yoga and meditation. Certain scents have the power to uplift our spirits, relieve stress, and even improve our focus. In fact, aromatherapy, which is the use of scents to promote healing and well-being, has been practiced for centuries. So, next time you’re feeling down or stressed, try incorporating a scent that brings you joy. Whether it’s the fresh scent of flowers in spring or the homely smells of cinnamon in autumn, find what resonates with you and let it work its magic.


Final thoughts

From pumpkin spice to tropical coconut, our scent preferences change with the seasons. There’s something truly magical about how scent can transport us to different times and places. Why not try incorporating these scents into your daily life through essential oils, candles, or even scented lotions and make each season a sensory experience like no other.

Woman enjoying the aroma from a hot cup of coffee.
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