The Sneaky Ways Scent Is Affecting Your Daily Life

The Sneaky Ways Scent Is Affecting Your Daily Life Hero Image
Photo: Stocksy

Smells shape our moods, behavior, and designs, so I'm often baffled (like many scientists for clearly different reasons) as to why they seem to barely register in many people's conscious lives. A bit of back story here: I'm scent obsessed. Perfume plays an active and mammoth role in my daily journey. I'm fickle with fragrance. It can be topsy-turvy depending on what I want to invoke. Sort of akin to the season's changing, if that makes any sense: the subtle beginning, the scent of a promised change. That's how I approach my olfactory nous. It's cocky that I think I have one. But I actually believe I do.

Smells shape our moods, behavior, and designs, so I'm often baffled (like many scientists for clearly different reasons) as to why they seem to barely register in many people's conscious lives.
 

Since smells are epic memory evokers, the link between mind and a smell is an emotional hot potato. I'm intrigued by a study from 2009, in which Yaara Yeshurun at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, found that the link between a memory and a smell is stronger if the smell is an unpleasant rather than a pleasant one, which makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. This doesn't happen with any other sense. Ever. No wonder New York beats me at some point most days.

A freshly lit match, a just blown-out candle, gasoline, Tipp-Ex, Santa Maria Novella's body lotion, fresh coffee, and Play-Doh. Yup, those are the things that are turning my aromatic tastes on currently. Oh, I also love the scent of rubbing alcohol, but that's nothing new. The thing is, there is no such thing as a good or bad smell because we come to form an opinion about it as a function of our experiences. I've written before about the role our emotions play in redolent trails and all the myriad ways our associations play into them. I loved swimming as a kid, so chlorine doesn't bother me from an effluvial sense as an adult, but I hate the smell of oats because my mom wouldn't let me leave the table until I had finished a breakfast bowl; don't worry, though, that only went on for about two weeks.

Studying aromatherapy for the past eight months has made me re-evaluate what I love to a degree, because one quick inhale of an essential oil can immediately provoke a mighty reaction. I've also learned that some odors seemingly don't have any connection, and how you relate to them depends on the mood you are in when smelling them. Also, like color, every individual sees and smells things pretty differently. When you meet someone who has the same aromatic inclinations as you, it's damn exciting.

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Erica Jong said, "Ken, my husband, just smelled like he belonged to me. I'm not talking about hygiene. I'm talking about when you hug him, he either feels like a member of your tribe or not. It's their scent." I love that. I really am attracted to people, and I'm not just talking romantically, by the odor they release into the universe/or what they marinated themselves in that day. And if I like someone, I completely forget what they smell like. Total and utter amnesia. I wonder what Yaara would make of that.

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