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The Power of Smell


Nothing revives the past so completely as a smell that was once associated with it.

- Vladimir Nabokov


Covid 19 has robbed many of their ability to smell. It is not until this vital sense is lost that we realise how important it is.


We have millions of olfactory neurons. These are sensory cells in the nose that detect odours and transmit signals to the brain to tell us what we are smelling. They are part of an extremely complex, ancient system that has evolved over of millions of years.


Our nose acts an early warning system. The smell of gas or other noxious fumes alerts us to danger before harm occurs.


Smelling pheromones can affect our behaviour in a sexual context and allows infants to recognise their parents.


Our taste is connected to our sense of smell. In fact, a person with no sense of smell could mistake an onion for an apple because their texture is similar. Smelling a glass of wine before it is drunk can enhance its flavour. The smell of freshly baked bread, fragrantly spiced foods, a home cooked roast or bacon and eggs can make our mouths water and our stomachs rumble, reminding us how hungry we feel.


Smell can even help understand our body and indicate disease. Bad breath may be due to poor dental hygiene or liver failure. Sweet smelling urine could be diabetes. When infection sets in, the putrid aroma is unmissable. Researchers are now investigating the possibility of dogs detecting a wide range of diseases including Parkinson’s disease and lung, breast, ovarian and bladder cancers.


In addition our mood can be affected by what we smell. When we notice a pleasant odour of something that we like, for example chocolate, we feel good. If we smell something unpleasant, such as vomit it makes us feel bad, we can even start to feel nauseous ourselves.


The smell of woodsmoke on a cold autumn evening evokes thoughts of being comfortably snuggled up safe and warm. The smell of the sea makes us feel wild and free. The smell of lavender has a calming effect and can help us sleep.


Smell also elicits memory. Just catching the hint of a scent that we have connected to a past event can bring all the feelings associated with what happened rushing back. The scent of a lost loved one can be a beautiful reminder of them.


This wonderful phenomenon can be harnessed. We can use the connection between smell and emotion to lift our mood when we need to.


Try This:


Add a drop of lavender oil to your pillow to help you sleep at night


Spray your favourite perfume, or the scent your loved one wears, onto a cotton ball. Put it in a sealed plastic bag and inhale the scent whenever you need.


You can invoke your most pleasant memory and the way it makes you feel by reliving the smells, sounds, pictures and feelings associated with it. Instructions for ‘Anchoring Positive Emotions’ can be found in ‘How to Rise – A Complete Resilience Manual’ along with over 60 other tools and techniques.

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