The Power Of Smell
Start writing a post
Lifestyle

The Power Of Smell

What it means to be back home and how that fires up my nose.

15
The Power Of Smell
pexels.com

I have been putting a lot of thinking into the sense of smell of late. I am fascinated by the immense power it has on one’s cognition and perception of stimuli as well as its deep influence on our memory. There is something so potent about our olfactory nerves and how our brain processes the chemical messages that enter our nose every day. Having just taken PSYC 101, I was briefly introduced to the thalamus, what my professor called “the Grand Central Station” of the brain. Everything that your brain processes must go directly through the thalamus – that’s just how it works. However, strangely enough, olfactory inputs travel through other brain regions (including the centers for memory and emotion) before reaching the thalamus. The implications of such a distinct difference in processing is still unclear, but notably interesting.

I recently came home for a two-week Spring Break amidst my first spring semester in college. Since my break doesn’t quite line up with those of my old high school pals, I have been spending a bit of time by myself. Additionally, there’s nothing better than to take a shower in your own home with the ability to lather yourself up in creams and oils that smell like your mom. Along with the fact I can now light candles and incense in my room without consequence, I have thought a lot about smell.

I’m wearing my mom’s perfume right now and I feel so close to her. It’s as if I can feel her warmth and scent around me all day. Yesterday, I put on some hand cream I’d bought at Bath and Body Works with my boyfriend. We bought a candle that day which smelt like “Endless Weekend” as it was called, and now every time I wear the cream all I can think about is that day. That’s the power of smell. How incredible that one can be reminded of events and memories through the repetition of an old chemical stimuli. How sophisticated must our brains be to connect scent with memory?

I love coming home because the odors around me envelope me in comfort and familiarity. College has a bit of a funk to it, to put it as politely as I can. I mean, it smells like the mountains and dirty ground; an overwhelmingly earthy odor in comparison to the ocean breezy scent of back home. The smells of college are not bad by any means. They are simply unfamiliar and different despite having lived there for half a year by now.

Home, and the people who occupy this space, smell of lavender and herbs. They smell like vinegar and pepper. They smell like mud and sea salt. They smell like wet dog fur and lemon flavored water. They smell of coconut oil and garlic. They smell like dusty car and green apple shampoo. Every one of these aromas makes up an equation called home. Without one, the balance falls flat and the sensation is uncomfortable.

I did a little research on the study of our olfactory “nervous system” and found that context and expectations play large roles in our processing of scent. Surprisingly for one of the five senses, we as a species, have very few words to express smell. In fact, we often have to call other aromas to mind in order to make comparisons. How intriguing! Therefore, our previous experiences with certain smells influence our future ones with new smells. Someone who grew up in the city may be perturbed by the scent of manure, but someone who grew up on a farm might call in nostalgia.

In addition, what we call a smell affects are perception of it. Telling someone that a certain aged Parmesan cheese hidden in a container is vomit might make them recoil at the smell of it. However, tell them its great cheese, and their perception of it would be entirely different. One might also speculate that a once positive smell can become sour after a memory with it has been tainted. Or perhaps a great memory forever masks a scent in nostalgia that makes you stop in your tracks every time you smell it. Is that a flaw of our species? Is there a positive reason to being so encapsulated in our sense of smell? I don’t know, and frankly neither do many scientists as it is one of the most elusive of our senses.

I guess, in the time I have spent researching and thinking about our sense of smell, I have become very cognizant of its power. More than that however, is the sensation of our senses in combination with each other. Coming into my room, having just taken a warm shower, only to be further warmed by a warm candle fire and its corresponding scent, I can feel the magic of all my senses working together. I feel whole and powerful. I feel warm and clean. I feel human.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Swoon

23 Pandemic-Approved Date Ideas That'll Send Sparks Flying From Six Feet Apart

There's a safe way to date right now and yes, it includes masks.

118463

While some people would rather opt out of dating altogether during the pandemic so they don't have to wear a mask on a first date, others are choosing to listen to both guidelines and their heart in order to find love during the time of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Should you be one of the individuals welcoming romance right now, there are pandemic-approved dates you can go on that still adhere to guidelines (and yes, you'll have to wear a mask).

Keep Reading... Show less

I didn't believe the notification when it came through to my phone: Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died from complications due to cancer.

Keep Reading... Show less

In our patriarchal society, men hide from their feelings, but toxic masculinity is literally killing men. They swallow the pain and move on so that they can look, feel, and act "tough."

But, strength is derived from asking for help and voicing your struggle and, trust me, working on your mental health is one hell of a struggle. The real way to "man up" is to acknowledge the downfalls in unjust societal norms. Mental health problems do not mean that a man is weak, they are neurologically-based disorders that require professional treatment.

Keep Reading... Show less
Swoon

11 Things Your Boyfriend Should Do Before He Drops $499 On A PS5

Let's start with spending less time gaming and more time with you.

4096

Scrolling through Twitter this week had me rolling on the floor laughing as I read some of the hilarious tweets from ladies who, whether in a relationship or not, shared reactions to the news that PlayStation 5 is on its way

As this "buy your boyfriend a PS5" joke takes off across the internet, let's just say, there are a few things your BF should be doing before dropping $499 on the new gaming system — or, if the tweets are real for some, before you buy it for him as a gift.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

Sorry, But 'I Don’t Care About Politics' Is Not A Valid Excuse For NOT Voting

The younger generation of voters is so crucial to the upcoming election because our vote is going to shape the world that we are about to enter as adults.

26987

When I ask my friends if they are voting this term most of them respond with "no" followed by an explanation of "I don't care enough," "It doesn't affect me," or "I don't keep up with politics," etc. I get it, as a college student I know that there are many other things to be concerned about like school, relationships, work, and friends. I also understand that keeping up with politics can seem like trying to keep up with an over-exaggerated reality show that has way too many seasons. Not to mention most news stations and websites are biased so it's hard to decipher if what you hear is true or fake.

However, despite all of this annoyance, as the next generation of Americans, we have to remember that we owe it to ourselves, our families, and to our futures to care.

Keep Reading... Show less
Tasia Sli

Tasia Sli and Anna Yang met in quintessential New York fashion at a chic rooftop event, inquisitive Yale grad Anna gravitating towards model/entrepreneur Tasia.

Keep Reading... Show less
Photo by Anna Hernández-Buces

"Do you have big parties on Cinco de Mayo?"

Keep Reading... Show less

Two of my favorite things in life are reading and books. Obviously, they go hand-in-hand. In my life, I've realized that there is nothing better than learning about the current world or getting fully immersed in another world. Reading can inspire, teach, and entertain you.

For me, the feeling of opening a book and smelling that fresh book smell can't compete with anything else.

Keep Reading... Show less

Expecting mother and wife to singer/songwriter John Legend may have accidentally slipped up and revealed the gender of her and Legend's third baby today on her Instagram story.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

20 Books About Latin And Hispanic Heritage Absolutely Everyone Should Have On Their Bookshelf

Any ally of the community needs to be reading these incredible reads.

9128

I go through phases when it comes to what I like to read. I am typically reading two books at any given time: one serious nonfiction and one escapist fiction novel to have on hand and open up depending on my mood.

What remains consistent, however, amongst most of my fellow bibliophiles is a desire to try new and different authors and genres. I, as an Indian woman, have been partial to reading books written by fellow Indian and Desi writers since I first got a library card.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Asked 46 Women What They Thought About The Term 'Plus-Size', And Here's What They Had To Say

It's 2020, where change is inevitable and norms are not only questioned, but challenged.

4525

We live in a world where it's become customary to push boundaries, break rules, and question standards upheld by society. Though try as we might, some of these standards are harder to conquer than others — body image is one of the top contenders.

For years, the body positivity movement has pushed for the acceptance of all marginalized body types not represented or celebrated in the media. Recently, we've gotten better at appreciating and accepting all body types, but one thing that's still lingering is the stigma of body image in the fashion industry — more specifically, the term "plus-size."

Keep Reading... Show less
Netflix

Many popular TV shows are holding off premiers until spring, so most people are relying on their television subscriptions to get them through a socially distant fall semester.

Thankfully, Netflix was busy filming this past year because there is a ton of new original content coming in the near future. From mysteries to romances, here are some of the best new shows you have to check out this year:

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

Taylor Swift Sang 'betty' At The ACMs And It Was The Perfect First Live 'folklore' Performance

I guarantee that Inez is spreading rumors about how fire this performance was.

3736
CBS

The Academy of Country Music Awards were last night and the performances were wonderful, but Taylor Swift's live version of "betty" from her newest album "folklore" really took the cake for me.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

9 Reasons I Unfollowed All The Fitness Influencers On My Instagram Feed

I don't need to feel bad about myself because of who I follow on social media.

2262

Throughout quarantine, something that a lot of us picked up on was working out. With all the free time, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to work on that "dream bod" you've been wanting for years, or to just feel good about yourself.

A common way to stay motivated and keep yourself on-task is to follow fitness influencers on various platforms. For some people, yes, this can be a healthy and helpful way to keep your drive. In other cases, however, this can do more harm than good.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments