The Power of Scent

Lovleen Sahota, Feature Editor

Freshly baked banana bread, my grandma’s phenomenal guacamole, new paperback books, and freshly- brewed chai: these are smells that have the ability to evoke my most powerful memories and incite an emotional response. The memories that come flooding back to you are a happy side effect of the way your brain is wired.

I wholeheartedly believe that the most essential of the five senses is that of smell. The unique sense of smell is extraordinary. It can change our mood with one sniff from sad to joyous. For me, memories are most vivid when I smell something that relates to that moment. Smell, unlike any other scent, has the power to throw you back into time, whether it be days, months, even years ago.  One small whiff has the potential to instantly change your mood and your thoughts.  

For instance, whenever I smell Caramel, I am evocatively reminded of my grandparents’ old house.  That smell alone can make me unconsciously smile and remember their lop-sided smiles and voices. I am back in time, about three years ago, and casually sitting at the dining table. Our conversations were always lighthearted and they were always fun to be around. In essence, the sense of smell is like a subtle moderation of a time machine.

Conversely, this smell can also fill me with regret, the regret of not making enough memories.  Another smell, that of gasoline, can quickly change my mood to feelings of bitterness and irritability.  I find it very amusing how smell can drastically change my mood in the blink of an eye.

One of my favorite scents is that of tulips.  My family would bring me tulips for my birthday, award assemblies, and any other- major- occasion that relates to me. I began to associate the smell of yellow tulips with that feeling of happiness and inner fulfillment/peace. When I come across flowers in a store, I take a moment to take in their essence and calming aroma. Placing my nose in front of blooms, in an effort to relive past associations I have had with the scent.

Scent does have its pluses, but it’s not without saying that it doesn’t have a few blemishes.

For instance, have you ever tried papaya? The look of it isn’t horrendous but, I can guarantee you that the smell… the smell most definitely is. Hence, scent has a minor flaw. Deception. The smell can affect your perception. Whether that be in a good or bad outlook. What may smell good can present itself as the opposite. I believe it with smell, that we fully relish a meal. 

One of my most vibrant smells is that of the crisp morning air. For others, it may not mean much but, for me, it does. The crisp morning air, is the 6 AM walks I’d go on with my grandma, it’s the looking at the sunset sitting on the balcony with chai in my hand, it’s me feeling the wind go up against my cheeks, it’s the wholesome smile on my grandma’s face when she tells me stories about her life. That’s crisp morning air for me. 

So, go ahead, take a nice long whiff of that old bottle of perfume or the smell of fresh bread.