You walk into a kitchen where cookies are baking, and suddenly you’re transported back to your grandmother’s kitchen. Or you catch a whiff of a certain perfume that makes you smile. It’s only later that you realize that the happy feeling was rooted in the memory of your prom date.
AromaTherapy, an important aspect of SteamTherapy
Smells trigger vibrant memories and emotions, and they do so more compellingly than any other sense.
MrSteam knows this, which is why aromatherapy has always been a strong aspect of SteamTherapy. And when we looked into the reasons why your sense of smell is such an acute trigger, we found them nearly as intriguing as the memories and feelings they evoke.
Smell, the most primitive of the senses
Smell is actually the most primitive of the senses, stretching back beyond humankind.
Long before creatures populating the earth developed touch, sight, or hearing, they had to find a way to respond to the air and chemicals around them. So even bacteria, the very earliest of life forms, acquired a sense of smell.
Smell travels faster to the brain than any other sense
In addition, our smell receptors are uniquely located in our brains.
Incoming smells enter our bodies through the nose and move directly to the base of the brain, to the amygdala – the section of the brain that processes emotion – and to the hippocampus – the area of the brain linked to memory and cognition.
None of our other senses are situated in such proximity. Sight and hearing move from the sense organs of the eyes or ears, then navigate to a relay station called the thalamus, before passing on to the brain.
Scents invoke long lost memories
When we make contact with an odor drifting through the air, the neurons that make up our olfactory receptor cells send a signal to the part of the brain called the olfactory bulb. There are at least 1,000 different smell receptor types that we experience over a lifetime, some of which awaken long-buried recollections. Complex and varied, smell can invoke memories you might have thought were lost, giving you the sense of traveling “back in time.”
Many of these odor-driven memories are rooted in our childhoods, because that was when we first experienced these smells.
Marcel Proust famously referred to this in his Remembrance of Things Past, where biting a Madeleine cookie distinctly transported him to eating the cookie before mass on Sundays. Researchers have demonstrated that adults of any age recall more than twice as many memories when inspired by odor, rather than through verbal or visual cues.
The same odor can provoke highly varied reactions in different people because of our distinct associations with them. You might want to remember that the next time you’re stuck in an elevator with someone doused in a “sickly,” overpowering perfume: her perception of the fragrance is simply different from your own!
Smell factors into human attraction
In fact, smell is a major component of attraction between two people.
Research indicates that our body odor is a significant aspect of how we choose our life partners. Scientists believe that kissing evolved from humans sniffing one another, where the very first kisses were a primal behavior to smell and taste potential mates.
Our diverse emotional responses to smell, and their association with memory, mean that certain smells will trigger negative reactions as well as positive ones. This is most strongly evident in people who have undergone trauma. An odor experienced during the terrible experience may make the individual feel ill or upset for the rest of their lives.
Using scents to evoke good feelings
Knowing how people react to odor has prompted advertisers to use it to try and manipulate people. Real estate agents, for instance, will throw a pan of cookies in the oven before prospective buyers come see a house, hoping to evoke memories of happy families and feelings of comfort. Supermarkets and department stores also pipe in certain scents, especially during holiday time.
You, too, can use scent to evoke good feelings and enjoy fundamental memories.
By harnessing the power of scent through aromatherapy, you can create your own physical and emotional response. Aromatherapy has been used in operating rooms and dental offices to combat undue feelings of anxiety.
MrSteam’s array of aromatherapy essential oils and chakra oils can help you in a multitude of ways: to calm down, become more energetic and invigorated, increase your focus, and become more creative, among many other emotions.
How to sharped your sense of smell
And would you believe that you can actually sharpen your sense of smell? Here are some tips to help you do so:
- Exercise can help you retain your sense of smell, which can fade as you age.
- Learn to become “scent conscious” by deliberately taking note of the odors around you. There’s good reason to “stop and smell the roses!” Sniff flowers and other outdoor scents, take a whiff of that delicious food you’re eating, and stop and inhale any time you’re baking in the kitchen, putting up the holiday decorations, lighting a scented candle.
- Give “sniff therapy” a try. Choose a few different scents, maybe three or four, such as floral, fruity, and spicy. Sniff them several times a day to help refine the different receptors in your nose.
- If you’re a smoker, another bad side effect of smoking is that it can mess up your smell receptors. Long-term smoking can even permanently damage your olfactory nerves.
- Humidify your home. Our sense of smell is strongest in summer and spring because the air is moist.
- Avoid terrible odors, such as a sewer or diaper pail. If you inhale something that stinks for an extended period, it can extinguish your ability to smell.
- Eat a different food with every forkful, rotating what’s on your plate. This will help your olfactory nerves from getting bored.
Ready to tap into good memories and feelings with Aroma and SteamTherapy?
Clearly, using aromatherapy while in the bath or steam shower can help you tap into your sense of smell, revisit a fond memory, and aid your emotional state of mind.
Consider trying it every time you step into your home spa!