Scents play such an incredible part in my memory. A smell hits my nose like a surprise, pinging my brain and my memory and activating emotions simultaneously.
I lingered on these aromas during a recent assignment for my aromatherapy class. I was stuck by the power of a scent within my mind and the trigger they are to my memory.
What are your favorite smells? What are the ones you dislike? Connect to the scent and watch how the emotion follows.
First smell of rain on pavement – This brings to mind how much I enjoy the changing of the seasons and the happiness that I feel when the first rain hits the dried-out pavement following a very hot summer.
Baby lotion – I love that precious smell that only comes with a newborn baby. That signature aroma is so full of new life, and it brings so many happy thoughts: innocent, new, fragile.
Lavender –Lavender has a special place in my memory. When I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and experienced daily panic attacks, I first heard of lavender and its calming benefits. This was twenty years ago. I still use lavender constantly for its calming benefits. Whenever I think of taking a bath, lavender is the first thing that I grab to throw into my bath. Now that I have been making my own bath products, I use lavender to scent my bath salts and my body scrub.
Fresh baked bread – Recently I have grown to love the smell of freshly baking bread. My husband’s own bread from scratch has become a familiar scent of home. I know when I smell his oven baking something up he is happy and he is near and I like the feeling of both. Each week there is a different type of bread, ranging from whole wheat to rosemary. One of my favorites to smell is his banana/peanut butter loaf. The smell of the peanut butter mixed with the rising bread is phenomenal and makes me salivate just thinking of it.
Cinnamon – The scent of cinnamon makes me think of the holidays, especially pumpkin pie. This past holiday season I tried my hand at baking homemade pumpkin pies. The smell lingered in the kitchen and traveled through to our living room. It lasted the entire evening as we gathered in our small home along with three of our children to celebrate a wonderful holiday.
Tropical scented suntan lotion – Much like how the first rain on dry pavement makes me happy, so does the first application of suntan lotion on my skin. It signifies the start of summer and makes me long for days on our boat at the river. Tropical scented suntan lotion brings back memories of days spent lounging by the pool in Mexico and Hawaii falling asleep to the sound of waves.
Negative Aromas –
Cigarette smoke – One of the most negative odors I can think of is that bitter scent of stale cigarette smoke. My mother used to be a chain smoker. Growing up she would smoke around us all day long. I just remember always turning my nose up at the smell of the cigarette smoke. Years later, I remember dating a guy whose mother smoked and noticing the walls and how dirty they were from all of the cigarette smoke inside the house.
Car exhaust – This past week as I’ve been focusing on this project, I have been more aware of the scents around me and how they affect me. Because I jog at least three times a week, I’ve been working on pushing myself a bit further to increase the miles that I run. This week I was aware of how the exhaust from cars affects me as I run down the road. More specifically, running my last mile towards home I struggled with breathing and keeping my pace up. The trucks that passed me on the run and released exhaust made it that much more difficult to complete that final mile. The fumes stuck in my lungs and made me dislike my time jogging that much more.
Smelly garbage – We compost in our home and the can sits to the side of our stove. If we don’t take it out daily, the scraps start to let us know they are around as uninvited guests. Neglected too long, the smell of mixed fruits and vegetable scraps leaves a rancid stench that drifts through our house.
Vomit – My grandmother had cancer. Our family members took turns staying with her following her chemotherapy treatments. Her vomiting would start late in the day and last all night. I remember having to steady her and keep her clean as she vomited. I remember feeling really helpless and sad to think that she was in so much pain and there was nothing I could do.
Hospital smell – The antiseptic smell that hits you as soon as you walk onto a hospital floor has stuck with me. This same smell is what I remember from my grandmother’s time in the convalescent home. It reminded me of how far she had fallen once she was moved into the home. I was hit again with that helpless feeling and not being able to do anything to help your loved one get better.
Take some time today to smell the world around you and notice the feelings they bring. It will unleash insight you likely weren’t expecting.
Smells are that powerful and yet far too often ignored.