The Secret Power of Scent: How Smell Affects Your Memories and Emotions

Ever walk past a bakery and get reminded of that month you spent in Paris, or catch a whiff of sunscreen only to be taken back to days spent at the beach as a child? Well, there’s science behind that. Scent has a powerful effect on our memories, emotions, and even cognition due to its unique interrelationship with the brain.

How does scent influence the brain?

Unlike the other senses, scent bypasses the thalamus and travels to the olfactory bulb in our brain, which is the region that processes scents. This section directly connects to the limbic system which houses the amygdala and hippocampus; areas of the brain that deal with memory and emotion. The ability of scent to trigger emotions and memories can be attributed to it entering the brain through the frontal cortex; a feature unique to scent.

This property of scent is so powerful that even a vague whiff of vanilla or jasmine can take us back to a fond memory or evoke a strong visual image in our minds.

The effects of scent on our memories and emotions 

The amygdala is the part of the brain where emotions react to certain stimuli (like scent), while the hippocampus is where short-term memories develop into long-term memories. The shared storage of scent and memories in the hippocampus region can explain why scents become tied to certain memories, only for those memories to pop back up when you’re exposed to that particular smell.

How can we incorporate scent into our own rituals?

As the connection between scent and memory is due to conditioned responses, it’s also possible to use our sense of smell to form our own beautiful memories or cultivate a positive emotional state.

Scent can be worked into numerous facets of your daily routine, from wearing essential oil-based perfumes to lighting incense as a way to wind down at the end of the day. When performed mindfully and with intention, any act can become a ritual.

Though cleaning may not initially seem like a task you’d want to linger on, when you use Koala Eco products, even polishing the window can become a therapeutic experience. As well as being a natural glass shiner and nature’s insect repellant, inhaling peppermint oil (a featured ingredient in our Natural Glass Cleaner) can aid in relieving headaches and help with nausea. 

Scent can also be used to cultivate a sense of calm and peace in your space. The rise of work from home setups has definitely reinforced the importance of a good work environment! We love beginning each day by spritzing our Natural Room Spray around the house. Not only does it freshen the air, but the presence of pink grapefruit essential oil provides it with uplifting and invigorating properties, aiding in instantly elevating your mood and stimulating your other senses.

Try tapping into the power of scent by lighting a scented candle (with essential oils not synthetic fragrance) or adding calming essential oils (like lavender) to your nighttime bath as a way to unwind, and by being present while performing everyday tasks. With the right mindset and a beautiful accompanying scent, even the mundane can become magical!