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The sweet world of scents

How fragrances can affect our mood, memories, health, and relationships.

  • Member Matters
  • Latest news
  • Read Time: 4 mins

In a world dominated by sound and vision, the often-underestimated sense of smell plays a crucial role in shaping our experiences.

Scents and fragrances have a profound impact on our mood, well-being, and even the dynamics of our relationships.

From the invigorating aroma of fresh coffee in the morning to the comforting scent of a loved one’s perfume, our olfactory experiences significantly contribute to the richness of life.

The olfactory system’s direct connection to the emotional centre in the brain makes fragrance a powerful tool for influencing our emotional states.

Certain fragrances can evoke emotions, trigger memories, and create a sense of comfort or excitement.

For example, the smell of lavender is known for its calming effects, reducing stress and anxiety. Citrus scents are known to be uplifting and energising, making them perfect for a morning pick-me-up.

Vanilla can evoke a sense of warmth and comfort, essential oils such as peppermint and eucalyptus are known for their ability to alleviate headaches and congestion, and calming scents such as chamomile and jasmine can promote relaxation.

It should go without saying that bad smells also serve an important role, if only to warn us of potential hazards.

Scent and memory

The intricate relationship between aroma and memories is a testament to the unique way our brains process olfactory information.

A particular fragrance can instantly transport us to specific moments in our past, eliciting vivid recollections and emotions associated with those times.

This phenomenon, known as the Proustian memory effect, highlights the profound impact scents can have on our ability to recall and reminisce.

Whether it’s the scent of a childhood home, a favourite meal, or the fragrance worn by a cherished friend, these olfactory triggers can contribute to the cultivation of a more optimistic and emotionally resilient mindset.

Moreover, researchers at Boston University are looking into the potential for odour to be used as a tool to treat memory-related mood disorders.

Fragrances and relationships

Scents can be powerful tools of attraction and connection. The familiar smell of a partner’s cologne or perfume can become an intimate and comforting signature, fostering a sense of closeness.

Some studies have shown that certain scents can enhance perceived attractiveness, making fragrance an intriguing aspect of romantic relationships.

Sharing scents through the exchange of perfumes or colognes can also create a unique bond between individuals.

Couples often exchange perfumes or colognes as symbols of their connection, establishing a unique olfactory signature for their relationship.

While the influence of pheromones – chemical signals that trigger responses in others – on human behaviour is complex, there is evidence to suggest that our natural scents play a role in attraction and mate selection.

According to mental health counsellor and author, Joanne Frederick, “When you’re attracted to someone, you’re more likely to be drawn to their smell.”

There is also evidence that aversion to another person’s body odour can contribute to relationship breakdowns.

In other words, sweet or sour, it makes sense to pay attention to scents.


Brett Debritz

Brett Debritz

Communications Specialist, National Seniors Australia


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