When you become an adult, you reach a certain level of personal acceptance. I say this, because for many years, I was in denial. I would go out to dinner and a movie with family or friends. Dinner consisted of drinks and appetizers, main course, then dessert. The retreat from the table came next, with the promise to never eat that much again. Then off I went to watch the latest blockbuster movie, wondering how I will ever fit in my seat. But the second my foot reached the lobby, I became a cartoon character, bulging eyes included, and slowly floated to the concession stand on the aroma of freshly popped popcorn. I simply cannot resist that smell, and I just accept that about myself.
Growing up in a small town in Ontario, Canada, had several amazing advantages. One of my favorite perks was particularly memorable. Our small town’s only bakery was located one block from my school. When that bell would ring, and I stepped out into the late afternoon, I would transform into that cartoon character. I would float all the way to the bakery on the aroma of freshly baked bread. The whole town smelled of it. I was one of the lucky kids, however. My dad delivered the bread, and my mom worked at the front counter. Nothing can remotely compare to finishing the school day with a piece of warm bread!
The Power of Aroma
I have always been in awe of the mega-power of aroma and its relationship with the mind. Enjoying the fragrance of a flower, or the intoxicating smell of a home cooked meal does not stop there. It is something altogether different, much more powerful. Smell has the force to instantly transport your mind to a very specific place or event in your life. All your surroundings melt away. You are there, in that moment, and no words can describe the sensation of emotions that well within you.
Of course, not all aromatic reminders are pleasant. In my personal case, I remember attending my sister-in-law’s wine and cheese bridal shower. I was barely seventeen at the time, young and confident. I had never drank wine before, but parental eyes were focused on the bride-to-be. What better opportunity to convince myself that I could most certainly consume glass after glass of the unattended red wine. To this day, and as I write this blog, the smell of red wine jolts me back to that spinning room. The image at the bottom of my garbage can, as I expelled the festivities of the evening. I have never been so sick, nor has my memory ever forgotten that horrible evening so many years ago.
I can easily define the sense of smell, and how it belongs to your chemosensory system. I could also explain the specialized sensory cells located inside the high part of your nose, called olfactory sensory neurons. These details are just the science part, and anyone can Google that.
I would much rather discuss the power contained in these tiny sensory neurons. How they can affect the brain to remember, to feel, and maybe even to learn. The simple act of inhaling a scent can alter your feelings and remind oneself of powerful emotions right in that very instant. This makes me wonder: Can smell affect our brain and guide it to a state of well-being? You tell me the next time you close your eyes, and breathe in the rich fragrance of a red rose. I know I drift to many wonderful moments in my life. Just for that second or two, I close my eyes, and all is well with the world.