How Scents Affect Us and Trigger Memories

how scents affect our moods

Humankind has known since the beginning of time that aromas can directly affect us in many different ways. The enchanting aroma of a sweet flower can lift and calm our moods, while the intense aroma of peppermint or spearmint can refresh and invigorate us. Fragrances and memory have a direct connection as well. Sometimes a certain scent will instantly remind us of a place, time or person. That is one of the intents of signature perfumes and colognes. We’ve all heard people say how something like the men’s aftershave “Old Spice Aftershave for Men” reminds them of their father or grandfather, while “English Lavender by Yardley” can remind them of their Mother or Grandmother, of course depending on how old you are. Even the musty smell of a basement can remind us instantly of the cellar at our homes when we were kids or a storage room where family treasures and photo albums may have been kept. It is said that scents have a stronger link to emotions and memories than our other senses.

What scents remind you of your childhood home? It could be the aroma of a favourite dinner being cooked, or the way the laundry smelled after being hung outdoors on the line, or a favourite shampoo or bubble bath and even things like the smell of a wet dog or a lemon-scented cleanser. It’s simply amazing how such a simple thing like smell can transport our minds back to a time or place and evoke either fond, happy memories or not so happy ones. You can actually picture the place or incident in your mind of what was happening when you smelled that aroma.

I was intrigued by just how this whole thing worked. How could a smell remind us of something that happened a long time ago? One of the articles that I came across is “The Mood-Enhancing Effects of Scent”. This article discusses how the part of the brain that processes smell is also the part that stores memories. No wonder scents can affect our memories so well!

For me, personally, I have always found the scent of vanilla to be quite soothing, so, of course, I love our French Vanilla Musk Candle and French Vanilla Musk Soap. It reminds me of helping to bake cookies or cakes when I was young. There is a certain dish soap that has a smell that immediately takes me back to the very first “real” job that I had at the age of 12, where I washed dishes in huge industrial sink for a catering company. To be honest, to this day, I really can’t stand that smell!

It seems to be logical, therefore, that we would intentionally use aromas, fragrances or essential oils that triggered positive or calming emotions and use them to help us after a long, hard day at work or when you just need a way to wind down.

What is your favourite scent and what does it remind you of? What aromas are calming to you? So many people’s “go to” calming scent is Lavender, but for me, that doesn’t work as well, so I’ll stick to my Vanilla or Sandalwood scents for now.

– Judy Whale


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