Just the smell of bacon frying and coffee perking can take me back to a cold November morning waking up in my Granny’s feather bed. I can feel the seven homemade quilts piled on me and the feeling of the cold linoleum floor on my feet as I headed for the kitchen where the most delicious breakfast I’d ever eaten was cooking. It’s a sweet memory since I rarely got the chance to spend time with my granny alone in her tiny Oklahoma house. All the details of that morning come back to me with just a smell.
Our Sense of Smell Is a Strong Link to Our Memories
While our taste buds include a mere handful of special detectors, our noses have 1000! According to an article written by Tom Stafford on the BBC website, the processor of these smells is called the olfactory bulb which is right next to the hippocampus in our brain, and it is responsible for creating new memories. These super detectors are found in the middle of our brains giving the sense of smell the most direct link to our emotions and our thoughts.
Our sense of smell is so specialized that, for example, I can tell the difference between the musty, dusty smell of an ancient book and the smell of a really old shelf. They are similar smells but our noses and brains know the difference.
Our Sense of Smell Evokes Emotions Associated With Our Memories
According to an article on Psychology Today by Jordan Gaines Lewis Ph.D., these triggered emotions can be powerful. They can bring back wonderful memories or tragic ones especially for those who suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
But smells from yesterday are more likely to be positive in nature, like the first time you rode with your sweetheart in a new car with the windows down. Or the smell of a big old orange tucked into your stocking on Christmas morning. It could be the smell of baking bread from your mother’s kitchen or at a local bakery that you passed while walking to school.
Certain Smells can be Calming or Stimulating
This WebMD article says while aroma therapy is not completely scientific, researchers do know that certain smells can be calming and actually lower blood pressure. Other smells can be stimulating and possibly help with depression and insomnia. Doctors strongly advise those with breathing problems or those who are pregnant not to use aroma therapy.
What Does Smell Have To Do With Aging?
According to Mario D. Garrett PhD, the loss of our ability to smell can indicate a big problem — dementia! While there are many other problems that might affect our sense of smell, many of these are temporary, including a case of the flu, a cold or even a sinus infection. But it could also mean that our body is not producing stem cells which are vital for a healthy brain. The author strongly advises everyone who is suffering from smell loss to see their doctor. There are tests doctors can run that use our sense of smell to determine if we’re at a higher risk for dementia or even Parkinson’s disease.
Happy Smells, Happy Memories and Beloved Music
The smells that trigger sweet memories are different for us all. I love the smell of wet leaves in the fall, while you may love the scent of a pine forest after the first snow. Perhaps you remember the scent of a loved one’s perfume or aftershave. I still remember the smell of Brut that one of my first boyfriends wore on all of our dates.
Since music can also take us back to wonderful memories, why not pair up a couple of your favorite smells with the tunes you have loved and have a sweet memory feast!