Scent is highly effective when it comes to triggering the domains of human psychological functioning, including but not limited to, perception and mood, cognitive processes and even behaviour.
A study performed by psychologist Silvia Álava called “Smells and Emotions” showed that people remember 35% of what they smell and only 5% of what they see. 1,000 people of varying gender between the ages of 25 and 45 years old participated in this study, and according to findings, when we smell a fragrance, that scent is registered in the brain, but it is also registered with an association to an emotion that we are feeling at that very moment, so when we evoke the smell, the emotion will also come back to us.
Scents take a direct route to the limbic system, including the amygdala and the hippocampus, the regions related to emotion and memory.
I asked some of you today to think about how scent invokes memory. Jasmine takes one of you back to India during the rainy season, salty seaside air takes one of you back to moments of childhood where you felt safe and happy, and the scent of fresh paint and a summer breeze reminds one person of their dad's art studio. For me, the scent of freshly rubbed herbs between fingers reminds me of my nan, teaching me how to tell what particular plants were by smelling the leaves.
Our candles can either take you back to a memory, or they can anchor the present in memory for the future. For example, when you light a candle at dinner with friends, or on Christmas morning, or at your wedding, chances are, when you smell that candle again, you will be easily taken back to the moment, and able to relive the feelings and emotions felt there.
Recognizing the power of specific smells in your day-to-day life gives you the ability to use fragrance as a tool to create a psychological state of mind on demand. Whether it be as simple as using lavender to bring about calm, or citrus to energise, or using fragrance to evoke memories attached to positive emotions linked with the people and places of your past.
How do you use fragrance to enrich your life?
“When aroma triggers recall, you are caught in a wave of emotion and evocation like no other.” –Dr. Rachel Hertz The Scent of Desire.