I am constantly fascinated with the human body and just how remarkable it is. One fact that blew me away was learning we have more than 350 different kinds of odour receptors in our nose and these receptors can discern, get ready for it, up to a trillion!?! different scents. Moreover, our sense of smell and memory (and by default, our emotions) are entwined.
Freshly cut grass, the first drops of rain on a humid day, camp fires, the ocean, your Mum’s favourite perfume or your Dad’s cologne – even thinking about an odour is enough to evoke a particular time and place in our lives. For me, every time I smell Cussons Imperial Leather soap it immediately takes me back to my childhood, when I was about 4, learning how to blow bubbles with my gran at bath time. Scent alone can revive memories that have long been forgotten.
The nose is, in fact, an emotional time machine.
Why does a simple “whiff’ trigger such powerful, emotional memories?
Without getting too scientific, the way our sense of smell is wired to our brain is unique amongst our senses. Specifically, a scent is a chemical particle that floats in through the nose, past the nasal receptors and into the brain’s olfactory bulb, where the sensation is first processed into a form that’s readable by the brain. Brain cells then carry that information to a tiny area of the brain called the amygdala, where emotions are processed and then to the adjoining hippocampus, where learning and memory formation take place. Scents are the only sensations that travel such a direct route to the emotional and memory centres of the brain. This results in an intimate connection between emotions, memories and scents.
So why is this important I hear you ask?
It comes back to re-training your brain and mastering your mindset. Put simply, we all have the ability to build awareness of what can trigger positive (or negative) emotions and memories for ourselves, purely through using scent. That is, through self-awareness of our current state, we can move to another more effective state of mind, purely by using scent.
Let me give you an example. Some time ago now, my husband and I went to a remote part of Tasmania’s east coast, overlooking Great Oyster Bay. We had a wonderfully relaxing couple of days of peace and quiet, disconnecting with the outside world and reconnecting with each other. While there, we used the complimentary lavender-infused shampoo and wash. On the last day, I took a photo of the brand of shampoo and made sure to order some so I could use at home.
Returning to the hustle and bustle of normality, I created a ritual each morning and evening of using the shampoo and wash to prepare for the day to begin and then wash away the trials and tribulations of the day that has been. The scent immediately evokes the sense of calm and contentment of the time in Tasmania. It allows me to effectively transition to a far more productive state mind, by allowing me to travel back in time to when I was in ‘flow’ and leverage these positive emotions twice a day, every day.
With this in mind, my questions for you to consider are:
- How could you use your ability ‘time-travel’ to benefit you?
- Using scents to evoke positive emotions and memories, what rituals could you build to improve your state of mind?
Feel free to to share your thoughts and responses below.
If you think others could benefit from stepping into the arena, please share with a friend.
Image source: https://www.jneurosci.org/content/33/44.cover-expansion
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I’m Dr Jess Murphy, Founder of Pathway to Your Potential Pty Ltd.
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Dr Jess Murphy – Founder
Having spent 20+ years in the corporate world holding various senior leadership roles, alongside her Adjunct Professorship in Business Leadership, Jess delivers a unique blend of pragmatism and cutting-edge insights to ensure immediate real-world application.
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