Have you noticed that scent affects your mood, emotions, and memories? It turns out it’s not in your head (well, literally yes, but figuratively no). The olfactory nerve, located on the roof of the nasal cavity, is responsible for transferring information related to smell and is directly connected to the part of the brain that processes emotion and memory. Let’s take a deeper look below.
Smell & Mood
There are countless studies showing that smelling lavender can reduce anxiety and improve mood. For this reason, it is arguably the most popular essential oil in aromatherapy. According to a study by Jones et al. (2013), participants who inhaled lavender showed an increase of theta and alpha wave activities in all brain regions. What does that really mean? Theta waves occur when you are relaxing or sleeping and alpha waves occur when the eyes are closed, while you’re daydreaming or meditating; so lavender promotes soothing rhythms in the brain, which have a calming effect.
Smell & Memory
Of all the senses, smell is most closely associated with memory. For instance, the smell of crayons might bring you back to your pre-school years. For me, the smell of fresh and sweet lilac will forever remind me of my grandmother, who used to pick them and keep them in her home. This phenomenon is known as “odor evoked autobiographical memories” (OEAMs). The most wonderful kind of OEAMs are the spontaneous ones that trigger long-forgotten memories.
Smell & Emotion
Smell is incredibly emotive. If you’ve ever bought a scented candle or perfume, you’ve experienced it firsthand. Different scents are formulated and layered to induce an extensive range of feelings, for instance, energy, tranquility, or passion to name a few.
Smell is also highly subjective, so different people have totally different impressions of the same scent. Research shows that people tend to react to scents and show preferences towards them based on emotional associations. For example, someone who has grown up on a flower farm and has fond childhood memories will likely enjoy floral scents.