When the time comes for ‘smelling’ sweet memories - GulfToday

When the time comes for ‘smelling’ sweet memories

Birjees Hussain

She has more than 10 years of experience in writing articles on a range of topics including health, beauty, lifestyle, finance, management and Quality Management.

She has more than 10 years of experience in writing articles on a range of topics including health, beauty, lifestyle, finance, management and Quality Management.

Representational image.

Representational image.

According to research conducted by the University of Kent, smells that we experience outdoors evoke pleasant memories and a sense of well-being.

There’s no doubt that smells have a tendency to arouse strong emotions in people. Smells, in general, have memories of days gone by. Memories of your home country. Memories of your childhood. Memories of your university days and memories of long pleasant summers.

Memories can be pleasant and unpleasant. Certain smells can trigger memories of being sick in hospital. Memories that you hate, or love, or fear, or that inspire confidence. Smells can be revitalising as well as relaxing.

Smells are a multi-billion dollar business and perfumers around the world produce one scent after another. Perfumes, essential oils and spices are key ingredients in our lives and those in the fragrance business know it all too well.

We use the right scent for the right occasion. We use just the right blend of essential oils to help us ease whatever might be ailing us. According to scientists, sometimes just inhaling a particular scent can perk us up. I suppose it’s about awakening certain memories from our past. Experts might suggest that it’s about playing around with our olfactory nerves.

As a child in primary school in England I remember the smell of school lunch cooking. I remember the smell of the gym and the changing room, and I remember the smell of plasticine in the classrooms. At university, I particularly remember the smell of chemicals in the chemistry building. One particular smell that has stayed with me is that of Aniline, a compound that formed the basis of my final year chemistry project.

Back then I spent most of my final year in the lab. The smell was so incredibly intense that it lingered on my clothes and in my nose. I’d smell it at lunch in the canteen, which was very distracting, and on my clothes on the way home despite being in a lab coat all day. I also recall the smell of acetone, another chemical we used to dry our apparatus. Now whenever I smell nail polish remover, whose key component is often acetone, I am transported back to my final year project. Of course the scent of university wasn’t all chemicals.

I recall one year my late father gave me the perfume, Halston. I used it a lot in my first year and then kept the bottle after it finished. Years later, whenever I sniffed the nozzle, I was taken right back to my first year of college. In fact, even after the scent from the bottle dissipated over time, years later the smell of that perfume remains in my memory to this day and in my head I can still smell it, remembering how I felt at the time. The association of Halston with my first year of university has not faded over time.

Smells are so powerful that they not only provoke memories but they can instantly tell your whereabouts.

Hospitals have a distinct smell that stays with you, if you’ve ever been in hospital for any length of time. Yes the surroundings are the key giveaway but if you close your eyes you’ll know where you are just by the smell. Hospital smells will always be associated with you, or someone you care about, being sick or passing away in hospital.

But if you smell fish you are either in a fish market or by the sea. Compared to a hospital, I’m sure all of us would prefer to be in a fish market surrounded by fishy smells.

Fried fish and chips or burgers tell you you’re in or near a fast food outlet or a food court inside a mall. Some people, of course, don’t mind eating the burger or fries but the smell in an enclosed space is really quite offputting, especially if you’re not the one eating it.

The same goes for barbecues and grills. In hot countries, especially in the evenings, the streets can wreak of fried, grilled or barbecued meat because the smell billows out of restaurant exhaust fans. So let’s think of smells that promote pleasant thoughts and pleasant memories.

I like the aroma of a coffee shop with freshly brewed coffee along with freshly baked cinnamon rolls. It reminds me of sitting somewhere peaceful watching the world go by.

I like the aroma inside bakeries with freshly baked cakes and pastries. You know you’re in one even at the door.

I like the smell of a freshly mowed lawn, burning wood outside, the smell that remains after a rain shower and the scent of Jasmin in the air.

It just goes to show that whatever your favourite scent is, your nose knows it.

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