We know it’s a tough pill to swallow, but the holiday break is over, and if you work from home and are struggling to get back into the swing of things, switching up your home fragrance can help. Obviously, a candle isn’t a cure-all for finding focus—there are foods you can eat and exercises for that. But a new scent is a small-but-mighty environmental change that can help reset your easily-distracted work-from-home brain.
Research suggests that scents like lavender, rose, and frankincense can help us wind down before bed and promote better sleep, so it’s not a stretch to assume that there are aromas that can deliver the opposite effect and boost our focus throughout the work day. According to Amy Galper, a board-certified aromatherapist and founder of the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies, it’s totally possible.
“When we smell something, the aromatic molecules trigger an electrical impulse that then sends a signal to the part of our brain called the limbic system, which is responsible for our ability to learn and remember, our behavior, conscious and unconscious, and is also responsible for manufacturing the enzymes and proteins that make up our hormones, which regulate and control all the actions in our body,” she previously told Well + Good. So the through line between scent, our moods, and behaviors is way clearer than you think.
To help reinvigorate your WFH routine, we learned more about the scents that’ll help boost your focus in the new year, and found their best candle counterparts that’ll *spark* your attention. (Pun intended.)
“Lemon is one of the most refreshing scents and it has been shown to boost energy and focus,” says Linda Clark, an aromatherapist and writer at Scent Selective. “The citrusy smell of lemon is invigorating and can help you feel more alert.” Which is exactly what you need if you find yourself spacing out during Zoom meetings. And remember the limbic system we were talking about earlier? According to Clark, lemon essential oil has been shown to stimulate the limbic system, which can help explain why it’s helpful for supporting focus.
Lemon scented candles
Mrs. Meyers, Soy Aromatherapy Lemon Verbena Candle — $17.00
Notes: Lemon, fir, lemongrass
You probably know Mrs. Meyer’s for its cleaning products, but don’t sleep on its scented candles. The Lemon Verbena Candle is made using a soy and vegetable wax blend, and essential oils like lemon, fir, and lemongrass. The trio makes for a fresh, citrusy scent that fills a room and helps refresh your senses when you need a pick-me-up. Plus, it’s under $20, which you can’t beat.
Smells like: A citrus garden
Burn time: 35 hours
Heretic, Dirty Lemon Candle — $70.00
Notes: Lemon, bergamot, patchouli, sandalwood, black pepper
If you want a lemon-scented candle with a twist, meet Heretic’s Dirty Lemon Candle. The lemon notes are juxtaposed with earthy patchouli, warm sandalwood, and spicy black pepper, resulting in a sophisticated aroma that’s totally one-of-a-kind, but still fresh. While the $70 price tag is a splurge, this 100 percent soy candle is worth every penny.
Smells like: A sexy lemon
Burn time: 40 hours
Nest, Amalfi Lemon & Mint Candle — $46.00
Notes: Lemon, bergamot, mint, driftwood
Inspired by summers spent on the Amalfi coast, Nest’s Lemon & Mint Candle has a clean, zesty scent that carries throughout your space, without overpowering it. Notes of lemon and orange bergamot are paired with herbaceous mint and driftwood—and it’s a match made in heaven. You can even get a mini size for only $18.
Smells like: Icy limoncello
Burn time: 50-60 hours
A member of the mint family, Rosemary has an astringent, slightly woodsy scent that stimulates your senses with every whiff (similar to eucalyptus or camphor.) “Rosemary has long been associated with improved memory and concentration, making it the perfect scent to help support energy and focus,” says Clark. “The aroma offers an experience of profound clarity and purification, and can energize our thoughts and exercise our memory,” Galper explained to Well + Good. So if you’re overwhelmed by a barrage of unread emails, rosemary’s clarifying scent will give you the boost you need to get through it.
Paddywax, Al Fresco Candle – Rosemary + Sea Salt — $29.00
Notes: Rosemary, thyme, sea salt, lemon blossom, orange
This Rosemary + Sea Salt Candle by Paddywax stars notes of rosemary, thyme, and jasmine, along with top notes of orange, lemon blossom, and sea salt. The result is an herbaceous, fresh aquatic scent that’ll make you miss dining outdoors in the summertime, which is all the motivation you need to power through your to-do list. Plus, the tinted glass vessel makes for a cute desktop organizer when it’s done!
Smells like: An herb garden with an ocean view
Burn time: 50 hours
Flamingo Estate, Climbing Tuscan Rosemary Scented Candle — $55.00
Notes: Rosemary, cypress
If Flamingo Estate hasn’t already inspired you to start a home garden in the new year, the brand’s rosemary scented candle is bound to seal the deal. Hand-poured in LA, this 100-percent vegetable wax candle boasts a slow, even burn, and an even better scent throw, filling spaces big and small with the stimulating, herby goodness of rosemary. “The scent on this candle is wonderful—really energizing and fresh,” confirms one FE shopper.
Smells like: Stepping into a garden
Burn time: 60 hours
Lafco, Rosemary Eucalyptus Candle — $46.00
Notes: Rosemary, eucalyptus, basil, juniper, patchouli
This Lafco candle combines the refreshing scent of rosemary with purifying eucalyptus and basil to create an uplifting aroma that’s exactly what we need during afternoon slumps. Notes of sweet juniper berries, fresh sage, and comforting patchouli give the candle an earthy base scent that grounds a wandering mind and helps keep you focused on busy work days.
Smells like: A luxury spa
Burn time: 50 hours
The holidays may be over, but the cooling scent of peppermint is always in vogue. “This refreshing herb has long been used to help with concentration and mental clarity,” says Clark, thanks to its sharp, energizing scent that jolts the senses and helps clear your mind when you’re struggling to focus. It’s even been shown to help relieve tension and soothe anxiety—two things that tend to ramp up when you’re stressed about work.
Diptyque, La Droguerie Odor-Removing Candle — $70.00
Notes: Peppermint, basil, tomato leaf
Not only does Diptyque’s La Droguerie Candle totally eliminate unwanted odors, it’ll get rid of your WFH-brain too. The garden fresh aroma is made up of a blend of uplifting green herbs like peppermint and basil, along with tomato leaf to evoke the mood boosting effect of spring and inspire a more productive workday. Besides, the odor-removing technology makes it the perfect candle to burn after lunchtime (which is also when you need a pick-me-up most.)
Smells like: Fresh picked herbs
Burn time: 60 hours
Voluspa, Havana Mint Mojito Glass Jar Candle — $32.00
Notes: Peppermint, lime, basil, coconut rum
Voluspa’s Mojito Candle combines the cooling scent of peppermint with tangy lime to create the ultimate fresh, focus-boosting aroma. Featuring notes of lime, fresh mint, basil, and coconut rum, this sweet and zesty candle is like a breath of fresh air in your space—and perfectly embodies everyone’s favorite summertime cocktail.
Smells like: Your next vacation
Burn time: 100 hours
Jo & Back, Peppermint Eucalyptus Candle — $27.00
Notes: Peppermint, eucalyptus, oak moss, patchouli
This Jo & Back Candle touts notes of top notes of eucalyptus, middle notes of peppermint, rose, and wood, all on a base of patchouli, cedar, and oakmoss—to revitalize a tired WFH brain, and keep you grounded so you can take on the day. Made with soy wax and a cotton wick, it burns clean and evenly, effectively filling your space with a minty, mind-clearing scent.
Smells like: A walk in the woods
Burn time: 46 hours
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