How Important Is Your Sense Of Smell?
In short, our sense of smell is vitally important and extremely useful! Our sense of smell is controlled by the Olfactory System which is linked to the oldest known part of our brain, the Limbic System. The Limbic System houses our memories and influences our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and actions. In addition to that, the Limbic System is directly linked to our nervous and hormonal systems.
In a manner of speaking, our sense of smell is extremely powerful! It triggers memories, influences thoughts, changes the way we feel, behave and act and has a direct impact on nervous impulses and hormone secretions; essentially, smell is directly linked to, and has a controlling action on, the pleasure centre of our brain!
Now, that is all very well and good but from a practical perspective, what does that actually mean?
In real terms, our sense of smell helps, heals, protects, nurtures and nourishes us and provides information about our external environment; real, memorised or imagined. Our sense of smell is an information tool that
- Controls our sense of taste
- Tells us about things we like and dislike
- Protects, nurtures, nourishes, and heals us
- Informs us about when we are/someone is unwell
- Reminds us of things from our past
- Stimulates or sedates various functions of body, mind and emotions
- Attracts lovers, sexual partners and friends
- Enhances performance
- Instigates a whole new world of fascinating imagination, wonder and fantasy!
Whether we are aware of it or not, is neither here nor there; most of bodily functions happen autonomously – respiration, circulation, elimination (digestion/urination/sweating/breathing), lymphatic drainage, hormone secretions, nervous stimulation and impulses and much much more. Are we consciously controlling any of these functions and in fact, most of the time, are we even aware that any of this is even happening? There is no doubt about it, your sense of smell is working and it is doing all of the things mentioned above and so much more! It is happening!
So, let’s now consider each one in turn. Our sense of smell
Protects us by giving us information about danger e.g. fires (or something burning) or food & drink that is either unsafe to eat or past its best. Our sense of smell gives us information and about other things in our external environment e.g. hot and cold temperatures, pollution levels, fertilized fields, cooking food, wood burners, and the smell of home. We may not see, touch, hear, or taste any of this, but we can certainly smell it!
Nourishes us by enabling us to detect what something might taste like and whether or not something is safe to eat or drink. When you open the fridge, how do you know if something has gone off? You smell it, right? In addition to that, in times gone by, our forefathers used their sense of smell to detect where food might be. In a manner of speaking, that kind of still happens today e.g. the smell of baking bread, cooking chocolate, grilled bacon, wood oven pizzas, beautiful stews and hot pots and delicious marinated curries…we may not see, hear, touch or taste any of this, but if we are in a different room the smell of the food will emanate its way into your nostrils!
The scent of something has the power to kick-start our digestive juices as well. For example, the smell of lemons for some people is enough to start the mouth-watering process; saliva is a digestive juice that breaks down food in the mouth. Once saliva is secreted, digestion is then stimulated.
Our sense of smell influences our sense of taste, and indeed, without it, our sense of taste would be vastly reduced, if present at all. This relates to the concept of food as well as anything else in life that we like or dislike; think about it for a moment, when something is amazing we sometimes refer to it as mouth-wateringly good….interesting isn’t it!
Informs us about things that we like and dislike which comes back to the word taste! If we like something it tastes good, i.e. we like the taste of that. If we dislike something, it is not to our liking i.e. he/she/it is not our taste.
We get this like and dislike sensation from all of our other senses as well i.e. when we hear, see and touch something we either like or dislike it. But here’s the thing, if you touch a coffee bean or see a coffee bean or hear a coffee bean being ground or percolated, how can you tell whether you like it or not? It’s difficult isn’t it, until you smell it and then taste it…and remember, taste is controlled by smell! When we smell and taste something we internalise it, personalise it and start to create emotions, feelings, and thoughts about it and then we start to judge it. Smelling and tasting something is profoundly personal, profoundly powerful and extremely sensitive as well as informative.
Somehow the experience is even more real and everything is amplified.
When we smell something, our brain detects the odour and immediately we start to judge it; we either like or dislike it and then our reasoning commences and quite often we have no idea why we like or dislike something…we just do. Sometimes like and dislike can be linked to a pleasant or unpleasant memory, an association; an unpleasant memory is likely to carry an unpleasant smell and vice versa. Our smell then becomes something that we use to detect an association we have with something!
Reminds us of things that we have experienced in the past because our sense of smell is linked to the part of the brain that houses memories which is why when we smell something, we can (and often do) have memories and/or associations with it; for example orange, clove and cinnamon (Christmas), a previous partner’s perfume or aftershave, wood burners, and baking bread.
Smell is linked to memories and the smell of something familiar can take us right back to something, somewhere, someone, some place, or some time.
Again, somehow smelling something makes an experience, whether imagine, memorised or actual, even more real and amplified.
Nurtures us by lifting our spirits, improving our moods, enhancing positive emotions and helping us to feel good, feel attractive, feel at home and feel safe.
Let’s just consider the perfumery industry for a start; its a $33 billion a year global industry….! So why do we wear perfumes, aftershaves and deodorants and why do some people spend vast sums of money on fragrant toiletries???
It’s kind of a mystery but on my perfume workshops, I often ask the participants and the same responses usually come back to me. Here are a few common responses.
Smelling good helps us to look good. (Wow, smell helps you to look good??!!!)
Smelling good makes you feel good. (Really? Smell improves the way you feel?)
Smelling good boosts confidence, especially on a night out. (Seriously…smell boosts confidence as well?)
Smelling good is nice because it makes us feel attractive. (That’s fascinating…smell not only helps us to look good and feel good, it boosts our confidence and now it enhances how attractive we feel!)
It’s just good and nice because no-one wants to smell bad, right? (I would suggest that its actually more to do with no-one wanting to smell other people who smell bad….I couldn’t actually care less whether I smelt bad or not but I do care that other people might really take a disliking to how I smelt!!)
So, whether you realise it or not, smell is very important to us, very powerful, very expressive, extremely personal, somehow mysterious and unexplainable and….I can assure you…it is working!
Heals us by lifting our spirits and improving moods but also, by using essential oils we are using chemical compounds with a whole range of therapeutic properties and qualities, including constituents that fight infections, kill bacteria and destroy airborne microbes. Detecting an aromatic substance can
Open our breathing pathways reducing the symptoms of cold, flu or nausea
Help to alleviate headaches and migraines
Combat stress, tension, anxiety, worry, fear, depression, sadness, and melancholy
Stimulate and awaken our senses or boost relaxation, rest and sleep
Stimulates or sedates our mind, body and emotions. For example, we used to use smelling salts to revive us and help us to regain consciousness following a faint or a fall or a deep sleep. It is widely recognised that certain aromas stimulate, still and clarify the mind aiding and boosting concentration, study and focus e.g. peppermint, rosemary, lemon, and frankincense.
Enhances performance! What I mean by this is enhancing the performance of
The various functions of our body such as digestion, respiration, urination, reproduction, circulation, and cell regeneration etc
Our immune systems increasing our ability to stay well by fighting off infections, killing harmful microbes and bacteria, and by boosting the action & performance of white blood cells (most notably lemon, tea tree, lavender, thyme, myrrh and lemongrass)
Speeding up the process of recovery from illness, injury and disease
The mind from the perspective of enhancing focus and concentration and some help to boost and improve memory (most notably lemon and frankincense)
Our emotions through; promoting a feel good factor, lifting our spirits and improving moods; balancing and regulating hormonal activity and nervous impulses (lavender, rosemary, bergamot and geranium)
If we look at performance on physical terms, aromatic essential oils, as I have mentioned previously, are highly concentrated chemical compounds with healing qualities and therapeutic properties; some are analgesic (pain relieving), many are antiseptic (kills bacteria), some are expectorant (removes excess mucous) and there are those that are anti-inflammatory (reduces or removes inflammation). The list is endless and essential oils offer serious and well documented benefits.
If used and applied properly with the right expert guidance, essential oils help to improve performance in sport, work, school, and during competitions of any kind as well as improve the performance of the mind & emotions helping people to return to some sense of greater personal empowerment.
So, whether you are; a sports professional (or amateur) a student working towards passing exams and combating stress at the same time, a business professional with a lot of commitments, responsibilities, busy diaries, lots of travel and a hectic schedule, a leader of any kind – at home, work, in the community, politics or other – and are looking to improve and enhance your performance, find an aromatic specialist or aromatherapist who can help you…aromatherapy is more than just a nice, relaxing massage and a break from the world for an hour before you re-enter the same crap you’ve just escaped from. Aromatherapy is something that can help you to manage your life, change your life, improve your life, enhance your experience of life and help you in many different and empowering ways.
Attracts lovers, sexual partners, and even friends; smell is all about attraction! When we smell something we dislike we want to move away from it immediately and when we smell something we really like we want to experience more of it, keep it, maintain and sustain it, to have and hold it…to literally be with it.
Essentially we all want to; hear the sounds of love, sex and partnership; experience the touch of a caring lover or friend; see the people we love and care about and see the signs of love and affection; and we all want to know what love “tastes” like.
Smell helps us to detect when someone is unwell! Now this is an interesting concept and one that people with a sensitive sense of smell or a trained nose will understand and experience. I can certainly tell when someone is under the weather or when someone is fighting off an infection because I can usually smell it, either on their breath or on their body. It is much easier to do on yourself and with people you know well, such as family members and very good friends, but its also possible with strangers too. Very skilled Ayurvedic practitioners, chinese doctors, acupuncturists, energetic healers and aromatherapists will use their sense of smell to help them to understand about someone’s health and wellbeing…oh and body odour (BO) does not necessarily mean that someone is unwell!
Instigates a whole of imagination! Our forefathers who first discovered aromatic smoke that emanated from plants such as trees, herbs and shrubs believed it to be a gift from the Gods. The aromas were so bewilderingly otherworldly that they were considered to be from another plane; another dimension. Incense and aromatic oils have been used in religious ceremonies, rituals and rites throughout human history and none more so than Cedar, Sage and Frankincense. Religious, Spiritual Leaders, High Kings, Emperors, Caesar and Rulers have used incense to bring themselves closer to the heavens, to the Gods and to carry their dreams, wishes, prayers and ambitions to the heavens. The word ‘Perfume’ comes from the word ‘Parfum’ which is derived from the latin word ‘Par Fumum’ and this means ‘by smoke’ i.e. the dreams, prayers, wishes and ambitions were carried by aromatic smoke to the heavens. The amazing aromas made the prayers etc fit for the Gods because they were so magical and unimaginably mysterious.
In conclusion, our sense of smell is working all the time, providing us with information, helping us to stay well and healthy, attracting & repelling things (people, food and things), triggering memories and experiences. Smell is an unconscious, involuntary action which means that we don’t realise its happening or working and often when we notice something, we are not actually aware of it. Our sense of smell is working and is working to help, heal, nourish, and nurture us and if we can become more in-tune and aware of it, it can enrich our lives as it has mine and many of my clients.
If you would like to explore your sense of smell, discover more about the world of aromas and find out what it all means to you and how it can help you to enrich your life, please do contact me on +44 (0) 7972 043 922 or at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit my website aromatictherapeutics.com.
I make to bespoke, handmade, natural perfumes, run workshops teaching people how use essential oils at home & work, how to make natural skincare, bath & body care products and how to make natural perfumes. I provide aromatherapy, perfume therapy and massage therapy and I also offer personal life coaching services using Essential Oils, NLP and other Positive Psychology techniques I’ve picked up along the way – EFT, Law of Attraction, Reiki and much, much more.
I am passionate about personal development, enhancing personal potential, enabling change, and teaching, helping and coaching others to achieve peak performance and realise their personal potential. Staying well, keeping healthy and being happy are the first steps towards fulfilling potential.
Awaken the smell within and start your journey today!