Do Candles Relieve Stress?
For centuries candles have been used during religious events, healing ceremonies, at spas and in our living rooms, with the very first candles thought to be over 5,000 years old.
On a primal level, we all feel the benefits and relaxation powers of candles, but do we think that candles relax us because that’s what we’ve been told from a young age?
Or do stress relief candles actually work?
If candles do indeed relieve stress, then why? Do candle aromas relieve stress or is it the flickering light that calms us down?
Luckily, scientists have studied candles and carried out vast and thorough experiments into their effects on the human body and mind and we’re here to summarise their findings in this brief 5 minute article!
Do Scented Candles Relieve Stress?
A key part of what’s thought to make candles reduce stress is aromatherapy. Many people tend to label aromatherapy as wishy-washy and non-scientific, but research has shown time and time again that using smells, especially when used in combination with other triggers, can help to relax the mind and relieve stress.
A recent scientific study showed that when two groups of people were exposed to scented candles and “placebo” (non-scented candles), the group that were exposed to the scented candles reported increased well being and an overall reduction in stress.
What’s more… Brain scans confirmed that the “fight-or-flight” response that is triggered in response to a stressful event was reduced.
Scented candles and other aromatic devices have such a powerful impact on our bodies that many counsellors advise using them in combination with talking therapy to make their patients feel safe and secure.
Interestingly, studies also show that different aromas have profoundly different impacts on our bodies and minds. When surveyed, participants in the study reported feeling drowsy and relaxed when exposed to soothing aromas like coconut, lavender and vanilla.
However, when sharper aromas were introduced like rosemary and citrus, participants experienced an increased level of awareness and noted that they were able to sustain deep concentration for longer periods of time.
So, do scented candles reduce stress?
Current research appears to suggest that they do! Introducing a scent or aroma into your working environment, sleeping environment or living space can have a meaningful impact on your health. Just make sure to consider which aromas you choose and how they impact on your mood.
Jungle Culture lists all of our eco-friendly coconut shell candles’ scent properties so that you can make an informed decision before testing our candles!
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Does candle light help to relieve stress?
Undoubtedly, there’s something mesmerising about the flickering of a candle light, but from an evolutionary perspective, shouldn’t we be afraid of fire?
Fire represents danger. And all animals, humans included, do not like being in danger.
So why do we find looking at candle lights so intoxicating?
Those of us that don’t regularly use candles might remember feeling equally relaxed in front of a fireplace or campfire perhaps.
But scientifically speaking, does fire help us relax? Does the light from a candle relieve stress?
The fire experiment
Amazingly our brains are hardwired to feel less stressed when confronted with a small amount of fire. Researchers conducted a study and presented participants with the following options:
Option 1: A video of a normal fireplace
Option 2: A video of darkness
Option 3: A video of a normal fireplace (muted)
Option 4: A video of a normal fireplace (Upside down)
Participants were allowed to watch the videos for a set amount of time, and their brain activity and blood pressure was monitored throughout.
The results showed that the more naturalistic the video appeared to be, the lower the blood pressure of the participant. Participants also showed a reduction in acute stress which corresponded with how realistic the fire appeared to be.
In summary, real fire equals real reductions in stress and blood pressure!
So far, we’ve seen that smells and light can have a profoundly meaningful impact on our stress levels, blood pressure and general well being. Indicating that candles might just be all that they’re cracked up to be.
But there’s one element of stress reduction that we’re missing, and that’s sound!
How does sound reduce stress?
Jungle Culture’s coconut shell candles all use a “crackling wick”. This wick is designed to mimic the sounds of a real fire and the crackling that would occur in nature.
Sounds of nature have been proven to reduce stress levels and incredibly, different nature sounds affect different people in totally different ways!
It is thought that familiarity plays a big role in how nature sounds affect your body and mind.
For example, if you happened to grow up by the ocean then the sounds of the tide, maybe even the squawking of a pack of seabirds might calm your mind. For others, sounds of the jungle or the trickling of rain might do the trick!
Sound also helps us to prepare for sleep and although we wouldn’t advise anyone to use a candle before immediately going to sleep, you might be able to incorporate a candle safely into a winding down routine before bedtime.
From an evolutionary point of view, humans clearly feel more relaxed when surrounded by familiar sounds, so if the flickering of a campfire helps you to unwind then Jungle Culture candles might just be perfect for you. If the sound of waves or the jungle is what helps to relax your mind, then try this jungle sounds mix or this ocean relax mix.
Do different candles affect us in different ways?
Not all candles are designed to relieve stress. In fact, some candles are formulated to do just the opposite. Rosemary scented candles are often reported to heighten attention levels and increase deep concentration, allowing the “smeller” to achieve better focus.
When shopping for a candle, pay particular attention to the properties of the essential oils or plants that are used to formulate the aroma. Choosing a candle can be difficult, so we’ve found this handy list of common candle ingredients and how they affect your body and mind to help you decide:
List of candle ingredients and their effects
Which candles are best for relieving stress?
Regrettably candles aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution and some people may prefer different scents based on their own personal preference.
That being said, we do have a few tips for those in need of a stress reduction!
Choose calming aromas and simple, subtle fragrances.
According to the studies referenced above, mixing scents can sometimes stimulate our senses as opposed to relaxing them. Researchers saw the biggest relaxation benefits when candles were scented with one fragrance only.
The most high performing fragrances were lavender, vanilla, coconut, camomile and sandalwood
Combine using a candle with sounds.
Our coconut candles use wooden flickering wicks that mimic the sounds of an open fire, but if you’re using a different candle then try playing gentle, relaxing nature sounds in combination with your candle to create an atmosphere of calm.
Use your candle at the right time!
Guess what? If you light a candle in the middle of an action movie, you’re probably not going to realise the effects as much as if say, you lit it whilst in the bath.
Relieving stress is an activity. Light your candle in conjunction with a warm bath, whilst reading or simply whilst sitting and gazing out at the rain.
Combining all of these elements together will help your body and mind to unwind more effectively and provide you with the desired stress relieving results!
The science behind candles proves unequivocally that they have powerful effects on our body, mind and health. The difficulty is choosing the candle that is right for you and provides you with the most benefit.
Combining candles with other relaxing activities is a sure fire way to improve the overall experience, so run a bath, put on your jungle sounds playlist and carve out a few hours of “me time”!
Need some help finding a candle? We've produced a sustainable gift buying guide that contains candles and candle gift boxes from an array of amazing suppliers!