Every parent I know, sooner or later, ends up with a hyper-developed olfactory system of some sort. Whether it comes from being pregnant, living with a pregnant woman, or just being that aware of all the ways your kids can really personalize the concept of “covered in it,” somewhere along the line, your sniffer goes into overdrive and sometimes doesn’t let up. I bet some of you are having scent-memories right now, aren’t you? Remembering the smell of wet dog that had you running for the bathroom, or the smell of the morning after a night with Mr. Jack’s black label…or the smell of the cologne of your first crush.

Smells touch that part of our brain that is still largely living in lizard-land. They bypass the thinking parts of us that are higher primates, and zero in on our primitive parts. As parents, we use this to our advantage–sniffing out bad lunchmeat and trying to identify exactly how old those gym socks in the bottom of the duffel bag really are. Smelling the smoke that tells us there’s a fire (or that somebody’s burning something they ought not to be burning). But we can use scents to our own advantage, and outside of those fight or flight situations.

Does this smell like medicine?


Aromatherapy in some circles is technically defined as the prevention or treatment of disease through the use of essential oils. Most of us in the western world, however, ascribe a more esoteric and less medicinal definition to the notion.

There are very few conclusive studies that show aromatherapy can prevent or treat disease, but there have been studies to show that scents do improve or alter moods, and the Placebo effect has also been shown to be beneficial in itself. Attitude is everything sometimes.

Led Around By The Nose

...and now I'm thirsty again...

Most of us don’t need studies to tell us a favorite scent can alter our mood. How many of us have fond memories–or get hives–or both–from the scent of Polo or Drakkar Noir or L’Air Du Temps or Love’s Baby Soft. But those are the scents that invoke memories, pulling us along by the nose, so to speak. A good trick to cleansing your snooter of that unpleasant smell (or the memory of it) is to inhale a dish of coffee beans. The strong scent will clear your scent receptors (also, a dish in the fridge can absorb odors just like baking soda).

Letting Your Nose Lead

You can alter your state of mind by doing it the other way around. Instead of letting the scents invoke memories, making a conscious decision to incorporate scent in your routine will let you lead yourself by the nose. How many of us find it relaxing to sit down with a cup of tea, coffee, or cider? How many of us associate that scent with starting the day, rather than finishing it? Take control of your scent-memories by deliberately incorporating a specific scent into parts of your daily routine. Burn a favorite candle while you’re writing and you’ll soon come to associate that scent with being productive.


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