The Hobart

Smelly Mind

by Annia Baron
Smelly Mind

Back in the day, I couldn’t get enough. With every spritz, it simultaneously invigorated a sense of optimism and evoked an experience that was sultry and haunting.

The top notes of apple, blue-bell, and cedar, combined with floral tones and hints of amber and musk did something to my brain. It didn’t take long before Dolce and Gabbana’s Light Blue became my perfume of choice. These days, cinnamon is my favourite scent. As is the smell of wet earth when I’m walking through the forest, or the smell of salty seas carried by the wind on a warm afternoon. I love the scent of my man after he’s been outside mowing the grass or the way a book smells when you open it after years of not being read.

Smell is the only fully developed sense when we’re a foetus in the womb, and it remains the most advanced of our senses up until the age of around 10, when sight takes over. Everything our nose inhales is evaluated in the same brain areas used to process emotions and memories, which is why they’re all strongly linked. Smell is crucial for helping us retain important experiences, avoid danger, prevent disease, build relationships, and find a partner. In fact, because we subconsciously evaluate compatibility with pheromones, artificial scents like cologne tend to mask someone’s natural odour, interfering with their sex appeal!

We can differentiate odours well, with around 400 receptor molecules to do the job. But how much attention do you pay to what your nose is taking in? And could we use smell to enhance our wellbeing or more easily respond to stress? Research says yes. For example, mood has been found to improve after exposure to lemon oil1 , lavender2 , and certain types of wood3 . Different smells have been found to lower blood pressure, strengthen our immune system, and prevent inflammation. One study exposed participants to a scent of their choice (one that elicited a pleasant memory) and a pleasurable but unfamiliar smell that didn’t have any personal meaning. The odours that were self-selected reduced levels of proinflammatory cells that trigger swelling in the body4 . Certain aromas have also been shown to enhance athletic performance and release endorphins. Our sense of smell tends to wane with age, but the good news is, like any muscle in the body, we can apply the use it or lose it principle, and empower our nostrils with a workout through regular, purposeful sniffs. And evidence shows that simply imagining odours lights up the olfactory centres in our brain.

Try this: Bring to mind the smell of walking into your local bakery. How does it make you feel? Stay with this for a moment. Now, think of hugging your favourite person in the world and inhaling the scent of their clothes, their skin, or their hair. What feelings does this invite? Next, imagine smelling the socks you’ve left inside your shoes that were worn after a sweaty work out. What do you feel now? Hmm, perhaps return to the delicious bakery.

If we playfully explore the way that smell influences emotions and our attitude, we can create an assortment of ‘smelly’ enhancers to use any time. For example, when you’re feeling flat and know that you enjoy the smell of citrus such as lemon, go to the kitchen and sniff that yellow ball of sunshine. If you’re feeling a bit edgy and find the smell of floral or sweet things soothing, open some chamomile tea or maple syrup and inhale slowly. If you’re feeling as though you could use a confidence boost and find the smell of mint pleasant and energising, go brush your teeth and revel in the freshness coming into your nostrils as you tend to your molars. Of course, if your snout prefers the odour of stinky socks or the juice at the bottom of your compost bin, go right ahead, use whatever works for you!

You’re encouraged to familiarise yourself with your top three smells and gain clarity on how you can use them to purposefully change your mood. Here are some of my favourites and the role they play for me.

Cinnamon: for when I sense myself being pulled in various directions but want to feel as though I’m home, relaxed, and with those I love.

Sweet orange: when I’m fatigued, and I want to raise my vibration and physical energies.

Jasmin: to tap into creativity or when I’m seeking inspiration.

Frankincense: when I’m yearning for a deeper sense of connection or acceptance.

Ground coffee beans: when I’m feeling a bit stagnant and desire more adventure.

Once you know what your nose likes, find something with that smell that you can carry in your pocket, or keep in your car, office, or handbag. You don’t need any fancy perfume (no offence to Dolce and Gabbana). It could simply be dried flowers from your garden, essential oils, or herbs and spices from your pantry. Connecting to our sense of smell is a celebration of life. When we breathe in, and do that with purpose, we are making a choice to be present – with our surroundings, with ourselves and others. Each time you intentionally smell something, you are gifting yourself another opportunity to be open, curious, and appreciative. Get to know your nose. Harness the magnificence of your olfactory powerhouse and start seeing how it can elevate the way you feel, to create the life you desire and deserve.

Annia Baron is a Clinical Psychologist & Mindset Coach. Want to learn more about mindset tools to create a life you desire and deserve? Get in touch on Instagram @anniabaron or visit www.remindyourself.com.

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