We have all had the experience of suddenly getting a whiff of something that brings back a memory or a feeling that you once had. Like a warm summer day at the beach with your first love or cookies baking at your grandma’s home. The smell brings about memories that take you down memory lane, suddenly making you feel nostalgic, wanting to teleport back in time.
The connection between scent and memory:
Smells can trigger powerful and emotional memories that can bring to life long-forgotten people, places, and things all through a whiff of a scent. Scientists found that your brain plays an important role in the relationship between smells and nostalgia by storing scents in the part of your brain responsible for making long-term memories. Whereas, our other senses do not pass through these parts of the brain.
When you smell something that’s connected to a meaningful event in your past, you’ll have an emotional response to the scent, and then a memory might follow. Like smelling freshly baked bread and feeling comfort and longing for home and then memories of standing in the kitchen while your granny baked bread may come back to you. Or smelling the scent of the cologne your ex used to wear that may bring about feelings of anger and memories of your breakup. (Don’t worry, it was for the best.)
Smells can dig up memories you have long forgotten, people you’ve been trying to forget and gushes of feelings that may be good or bad. I remember smelling freshly cut grass while hiking, and a whirlwind of memories with a vivid playback of my grandpa came back to me. It reminded me of my childhood and how much I missed my grandpa. You may have a completely different scent that evokes emotion and memories, but there are a few that we all have in common.
5 nostalgic scents:
Here is a list of 5 scents that will instantly summon nostalgia.
- Chlorine: The smell of chlorine brings about memories of summer vacations as a child. The feeling of freedom when school ends.
- Crayons: Studies show that 85% of humans are affected by the smell of crayons that reminds you of childhood, colouring books, and that kindergarten teacher you loved.
- Baked good (homemade cookies/freshly baked bread etc): This scent often makes people long for home. So, if you suddenly miss your mom when smelling baked goods, then go ahead and call her, she misses you too.
- Wet paint: The smell of wet paint could remind you of fresh starts or messing around as a child.
- Summer rain: The smell of summer rain could bring feelings of contentment and peace or memories of you running in the rain with your childhood friends.
Scents are special because they can bring back a floodgate of memories that might otherwise have never been recalled. It takes you down memory lane without asking for permission and conjures up emotions and memories that you have long forgotten and reminds you of what once was.
This blog first appeared on our Medium account