Smell you later Humans have very strong scent memory. Tell us about a smell that transports you.
The other day I passed a stranger in the street who was wearing the same aftershave that an ex of mine from 20 years back wore, and suddenly I was back reliving those memories – the good, the bad and the downright ugly. This is a common occurrence for many people, one smell and suddenly memories of something or someone we haven’t thought about for years comes flooding back.
Now for the science – being an avid reader of all things psychology I found an interesting article in the Psychology Today magazine that may explain this interesting phenomena. When we breathe in the smells hit out our olfactory bulb, which is starts inside our nose and continues along the underside of our brain, passing the hippocampal and the amygdala area of our brain. These areas are responsible for our long term memories (White, A 2015) therefore a familiar smell passing by can may stimulate something from the past.
It is common for me to be transported to other dimensions by simple smells, but there is one smell that brings back memories of my much loved granddad. As a child my brothers, my cousins and I adored our granddad, when we used to stay with him and grandma in New Plymouth we used to follow him around just to be in his presence.
My grandfather was a smoker and my grandmother would not allow him to smoke in the house, so when he used to go for a cigarette in his garage/ garden shed we, his entourage, in be in tow (in the 70s/80s nobody seemed bothered about their children being in the presence of second hand cigarette smoke). My grandad’s garden shed had a very distinct smell I am not sure what it was, perhaps a mix of cut grass and various commercial garden fertilisers, then of course there was the cigarette smoke.
Now don’t get me wrong, when I am walking past cigarette smokers on the street I think the smell is gross and it does not bring back any pleasant memories at all, but one whiff of that garden shed smell, and suddenly I am back sitting cross legged on the floor in my grandparent’s garage looking up at my granddad who would be sitting in his old green cloth covered chair puffing on a cigarette and telling amusing anecdotes of his youth. Boy was he a great storyteller, and his distinctive cackle – eh eh eh, still rings out clearly in the silence. It doesn’t matter where I am or what state of mind I am in, that smell make always makes me happy, relaxed and safe just how I felt with my grandad.
This is this one of the best memories triggered by an aroma that wafts around me occasionally; if I could bottle it I would I would take it with me everywhere and sniff it whenever I am feeling low.
Tell me about an aroma that takes you back to a happy place.
White, A (2015) Psycology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-babble/201501/smells-ring-bells-how-smell-triggers-memories-and-emotions