Chase Happiness

Smell and memory, image of woman smelling an orange peel

Smell the joy! Sense, memory, and emotion

Think back to a happy time in life, maybe a beach vacation, hanging out at your favorite aunt’s house, Christmas time… and then connect the fond memory to a scent. The salty air and coconut sunscreen of the beach, kitchen scents or the smell of laundry, fresh cut Christmas tree, or anything else that evokes a positive memory. We are sensory creatures and scents can be so powerfully evocative of emotional memory. Scent has a powerful influence on our feelings.

Here’s why:

  • Direct Highway to the Brain: The olfactory system has a direct line to the limbic system, including the amygdala and hippocampus, which are areas deeply involved in emotion and memory. This means that a whiff of a scent can trigger emotions and memories almost instantaneously.
  • Memory Lane: Scents can act as a time machine, transporting us back to moments laden with emotion. The smell of freshly baked cookies might evoke a warm sense of comfort from childhood, just as a whiff of a certain perfume can remind you of a person or past experience.
  • Mood Modulation: Certain scents can directly influence our mood. For instance, lavender can promote relaxation, while citrus scents are known to be uplifting and energizing. It’s like having an emotional remote control, with different buttons pressed by different smells.
  • Stress Response Alteration: Scents like peppermint or eucalyptus can reduce the perception of stress, soothing the mind like a gentle, aromatic breeze.
  • Evolutionary Signals: Some responses to smells are hardwired into our brains from our distant past — they can signal danger (like the smell of smoke) or safety (like the smell of rain on earth, known as petrichor).

So, a simple practice we can follow is to bring scent into our life with great intention. It could be a perfume or cologne, but could also be a diffuser and essential oil, or a sachet on our nightstand. Maybe your scent is secret, just for you, somewhere no one else will come across it.

Now, you may be thinking of ‘pretty’ scents, but let’s keep an open mind. Maybe it’s tobacco, leather, burnt toast, or sawdust. Maybe it’s even a bit weirder like motor oil or body odor. If it lifts your spirit or excites your mind, that scent is fair game!

When you catch that scent and feel a warm wave of nostalgia or a change in mood, it’s not just your imagination; it’s a profound, sensory experience reminding us that sometimes, you don’t need to see or touch to believe — a sniff is enough to feel.

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