Olfactory memory: how a powerful scent can promote mental well-being
The next time you feel like you’re losing your balance and worrying about something, just breathe in your favorite scent. There is an exact science that explains how it can have a calming effect on your mind and body.
The pandemic has allowed us to focus on our physical health and also on our mental well-being. The uncertain days we spend languishing – wondering when we can get a glimpse of normalcy – have had an impact on our mental health.
But, few people know that a strong sense of smell has been associated with our well-being for many decades now. That the olfactory cortex – which is also part of our limbic system, located in the temporal lobe of the brain – processes all kinds of sensory inputs, thus impacting our emotional responses and memories. This is precisely why a certain scent or scent can be so evocative and nostalgic, bringing back memories and emotions.
In developing this, Sheetal Desai of wiSDom Fragrances – a line of luxury fragrances – said that scents can produce psychological and physiological responses.
“Aromachology is the study behind the psychological benefits of aromas (aroma + psychology). He looks at the psychological impact that a smell can have on the brain. It’s different from aromatherapy. Aromachology focuses on the reaction to different aromas. Although it is related to the health of our mind, aromatherapy is actually more of a holistic healing treatment, using essential oils and natural extracts, to treat common ailments, ”she said.
The role of perfumes
According to Desai, olfactory memory occurs when our brain registers smells – like a diary entry – smells a scent and memory records it. “The next time you smell the same, it might bring you back to that first experience, whether it was positive or negative.”
“A scent can remind you of a person, an occasion or a mood. The scent of a baby is one of the happiest scents. Your father’s scent is often associated with security. The scent of freshly baked cookies can be comforting. During World War II, many soldiers took away handkerchiefs scented with the scent of their loved one, ”she explained.
It should be noted that while scents are subjective, some scents have a collective response. In this, they are used universally and have been accepted by people all over the world in the same way. Citrus-based scents, for example, which represent freshness, are widely used in perfumery and households for the attribute of cleanliness, Desai said.
“Scents that often make you feel comfortable are those related to food like vanilla, or a freshly baked cake, or the smell of coffee. The experience of food always brings comfort, and therefore the memory of aromas also triggers a feeling of comfort.
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