Olfaction (our sense of smell) is extraordinary. It has a vastly bigger impact on our lives than most of us may realise. With the current coronavirus leaving many without their sense of smell, it has proven to be a stark reminder of its importance. Here we are sharing a few of the life changing effects it has, particularly the phenomenon of scent memories, along with how to protect and enhance our sense of smell.
SMELL IS FLAVOUR.
Around 80% of everything we taste comes from our sense of smell. Without it, we taste only salty, sour, sweet, savoury and bitter. Not only this, but smell synergises taste, making all of the flavours we experience stronger and more distinct. Some studies have even found that our sense of smell is more acute when we are hungry. Give it a try, hold your nose and experience how your taste buds dull.
SMELL IS HEALTH.
Our sense of smell has the power to keep us alive. It can alert us to dangers such as smoke from fire, and spoiled food which must not be eaten. It also stimulates appetite and so a loss of smell can result in malnutrition. Beyond this, as you will see below, scents are so powerfully connected to our emotions, that those we have happy associations with, have the ability to slow heart rate, relax breathing, and subsequently boost the immune system.
SMELL IS EMOTION.
Olfaction is the only sense connected to the part of our brain that processes emotions. As a result, memories evoked by scent, otherwise known as scent memories, are more emotional and visceral than memories awoken in any other way. Have you ever experienced a scent and found yourself transported into the middle of a memory scape before your conscious thought even had the chance to catch up? In fact, the power of the connection between our sense of smell and our emotional memories is so strong, it has the ability to unlock memories you would never have otherwise remembered.
It is this emotional connection with olfaction that inspires the materials, textures, ingredients and design with which we craft our fragrances. We are empowered to explore the phenomenon of scent memory associations, and the visceral emotional and physiological power our fragrances can have.
Despite all of this, studies have revealed just how under-appreciated our sense of smell really is, with participants voting olfaction as the least important of all the senses, and the sense they would forfeit if they had to choose one. We think it is important to remind ourselves, and appreciate, the power of olfaction. With its ability to to improve our mental and physical health, our sense of smell is not something to turn our nose up at (too cheesy?).
How can we protect and enhance our sense of smell?
With a new appreciation for just how incredible, and important, our sense of smell is, we wanted to share a few ways with which we can not only protect, but improve our ability to experience the over 1 trillion scents our noses can detect.
Avoid every day chemicals that can damage our olfactory neurons such as cleaning products, cigarette smoke, nail salon and hairdressing chemicals. The coronavirus pandemic has perhaps offered us a unique opportunity to utilise the new normal of wearing face masks where possible when exposed to these chemicals.
Sniff more! Studies have shown that actively sniffing can restore some olfactory neurons.
Look around when you smell. Often, the more we know about a scent the better we can smell it.
A few exercises to use olfaction and scents to enrich your life:
Go on a ‘scent walk’. On a recent episode of Frauke Galia’s ‘An Aromatic Life’ podcast, she took her listeners on one of her regular ‘scent walks’. She simply took a stroll around her neighbourhood and consciously sniffed everything. From plants, the weather, to passers by, she makes a mental note of everything she smells. With easy exercises such as this, we are not only able to train our noses to better experience scents, but it allows us to be more present and appreciative of our surroundings.
Write a list of your favourite scents. Whether it be a fruit, a fragrance, a candle or a flower, write them down and go and smell them when you are feeling stressed, anxious or under the weather. These comforting scents curated by you, for you, has a healing power beyond expectation.
Create your own scent memories. This is a powerful tool often overlooked by us all. Pick a new scent, something you like, and wear it/ spray it/ surround yourself by it only in very particular moments you want to remember with that scent. For example, pick a new fragrance and wear it only on holiday. When you want to remember that holiday, spray the fragrance and experience your untapped memories flooding back to you. Or pick a scented candle that you only light on a Friday night before the weekend, or a particular flower you only buy when you’re celebrating life’s wins. Before you know it, success has a smell and so does that Friday night feeling.
If you’d like to hear more about the topics discussed in this months post, check out Dr Rachel Herz’s Ted Talk, ‘Smell, Your Least Appreciated Sense’ and Episodes 11 and 16 of Frauke Galia’s ‘An Aromatic Life’ podcast.
See you on THE 5TH.
H & G