The Science Behind The Smell Of Fall

The Science Behind The Smell Of Fall

Cinnamon, campfires, and falling leaves all might remind you of this special season, but is there a science behind the scent of October?
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Upon walking outside anytime near October, you might notice a distinct smell that will automatically bring up memories of carving pumpkins, warm blankets, and football games. While you might think you are the only one who really thinks that October has a smell, it is a fairly common idea. But is it really true? Looking to Yahoo and Facebook for answers, people seem to think it is just your brain associating smells with Halloween, and it depends on where you live.

People report that the scent of campfires, mud, cinnamon, and pumpkins typically remind them of this festive season. October is usually the month when winter starts to kick in, the mornings are cold and the leaves on trees begin to change to the beautiful red and yellow colors. I grew up in southern Texas, a place not particularly known for its cold weather, and while October wasn't always cold, it still had the distinct smell that I have known and loved, and it is the same smell that permeates the Indiana air that I now live in. The cool weather is not an event that happens nationwide, but does this October smell exist?

Upon further research on a meteorology forum, there is a distinct smell of snow; nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, nitric acid, dimethyl sulphide and sulphate and methanesulphonate to be exact. While it doesn't always snow in October, perhaps the cooling of the weather creates odorous chemicals. Olfactory scientist Pamela Dalton of Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia explains that odor molecules move more slowly in cold weather as opposed to the summer heat, and this could explain the reason behind the distinct smell of October. The part of our brain that deals with smells is the olfactory area and it is these olfactory receptors, Dalton explains, that bury themselves a little deeper in our noses. Could it be that the reason October has a smell is because we are actually not smelling the things we normally do at other times during the year?

On a hot summer day, smells seem to be amplified, if you walk past any dumpster in the middle of August you will notice the smell is much more horrible than the smell of a dumpster in January. So the colder air could be this link to the infamous October smell. A neurologist and psychiatrist, Alan Hirsch, explains that our trigeminal nerve, the one that makes you cry when you chop on onion, is stimulated by the cold air. So, while your olfactory senses are already changing, your trigeminal nerve is also being stimulated, creating the more intense smell that is common to the colder weather. Hirsch also added that there is a very strong psychological component to our sense of smell, which could also be influencing it. Furthermore, Hirsch explains that what we think something should smell like actually impacts how we smell that smell. So, some of this phenomenon might be in our heads, but it still doesn't change the fact that our brains associate this time of year with certain smells.

October and the colder air can smell differently for different people. No two people have the same brain, so that means that everyone's olfactory center isn't the same either. While pumpkin pie might smell amazing to one person, another can be repulsed by the scent of the festive gourd.

Regardless, October is the beginning of fall, the time of the year where you turn on your heater, keep your windows closed, eat hot food with rich spices and in turn, those spices fill up your house. While the fall weather can smell differently for a lot of people, the scent of cinnamon, the warm spices of a bowl of chili, the autumn leaves crunching under your feet are all smells that I associate with October. The smell of this season is up for debate, but I think everyone can agree that October has its own distinct smell that differs from the warm summer days. So make a cup of hot chocolate, sit on your front porch in the cool weather, and take a deep breath and appreciate the fact that you get to smell the beautiful smells of our Earth.

Cover Image Credit: arbuturian.com

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black and white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble; and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time, until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling; whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die," or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you, you are not alone.

If you're thinking about hurting yourself please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help it out there and you are not alone.


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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Meditation Is Not A Perfect Practice, But It's Still Worth Your Time

You'll thank me later.

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I began doing yoga a few years ago, and I instantly loved it. The combination of stretching, mental relaxation, and emotional release is amazing. It creates a sense of zen and peace in my life that I can use during the stress that comes from school, work, and everyday life. But the one part of yoga that I am not in love with is the meditation aspect.

I absolutely dread meditation. I do not know what it is, but I can never quite seem to get my mind to quiet down. No matter how hard I try, there is always a million thoughts running through my brain. "Did I finish that homework assignment?" "Am I breathing too loud? Can other people hear me?" I become so focused on other things happening around me that I just can't seem to calm down and relax.

But meditation is not about just clearing your mind and going completely blank. It is about focusing on a single thought, object, or intention and just allowing those emotions and feelings to overcome you. Focusing on one intention in your life allows you to become focused and re-centered. Meditation is not a set in stone practice, it is adaptable based on each person's needs.

There are seven general types of meditation: loving-kindness meditation, body scanning meditation, mindfulness meditation, breath awareness meditation, kundalini yoga, Zen meditation, and transcendentalism meditation. Each of these general types can be adapted to fit ones specific needs in that time. All seven of these meditations offer stress release options to help with daily stressors and inconveniences.

There is no perfect way to meditate. Meditation can also be as simple as just closing your eyes and simply breathing for a few seconds while focusing on one important thing in your life to help you remain grounded. There is no one set meditation type that works for all people. Some people enjoy all of the forms or even several of them, while others such as myself strictly enjoy the body scanning meditation.

The body scanning meditation focuses on scanning the body for areas of tension and to encourage the release of tension in that part of the body. Once the release occurs, the whole body can begin to relax even more. It usually starts by focusing on the toes and relaxing then moving up the legs, the torso the arms to the fingertips, and all the way through to the tip of the head.

My ideal meditation type is not for everyone. Playing around with the different types of meditations is the best way to find an ideal type of meditation that fits what the body needs. Unlike with most things, practice doesn't make perfect. Practicing the art of meditation just helps to refine the overall calm and zen that is felt.

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