Effects of smell on the quality of your life

A woman smelling a flower.

Favorite smells list

What is your favorite aroma?

When this question was asked of several people, their answers were fascinating.

-Bacon frying.

-Salt air off the ocean.

-Clean laundry blowing in the wind.

-Freshly mowed hay.

-Hot spices.

-Puppy breath.

When probed further as to why these were their favorite smells, all had a specific, vivid memory that they recalled with the first whiff of the odor.

Very often the memories were from childhood.

A young woman remembers lying in her bed in the morning, the tantalizing aroma of frying bacon drifting into the room, beckoning her to breakfast with her family.

, 58, said that the fragrance of sea air brings back her childhood summers on the beach.

She says:

The freedom we had running and playing in the sand, digging for clams and cooking them over an open fire!”

Michele, 72, remembers the times as a child when she helped her mother gather the laundry off the clothesline, burying her face in armloads of it as she carried it into the house, breathing deeply to take in the fresh, clean fragrance.

Freshly mowed hay spreads the scent that takes Jeremy back 55 years, to his days as a child on an Iowa farm, riding on a wagon load of freshly cut hay being taken into the barn to escape the rain he and his father could smell coming.

“Hot spices”
was the response of 76-year-old Jessie, who closed her eyes and told of her family cooking apple butter in an iron kettle outdoors.

Seventy years ago, but the memory was still very much alive.

remembers the cuddly little puppy she held in her lap when she was five and recalls the smell of the puppy’s breath.

Ah, yes, that smell gives her the feeling of being warm in the sunshine on an old front porch in a little seersucker dress.

How the sense of smell affects taste?

Now, what about you?

Has a smell ever pleased you as it has others—evoking memories, stirring emotions?

Have you ever felt invigorated by pine-scented mountain air or refreshed by the tangy stimulus of a sea breeze?

Or perhaps you’ve found your mouth watering after catching a stray whiff from a bakery shop.

Neuroscientist Gordon Shepherd stated in National Geographic:

We think our lives are dominated by our visual sense, but the closer you get to dinner, the more you realize how much your real pleasure in life is tied to smell.”

Smell does wonders for our sense of taste.

While taste buds differentiate between the salty, the sweet, the bitter, and the sour, our sense of smell picks up other, subtler elements of flavor.

If they lacked a smell, apples and onions might taste virtually the same.

Or, for example, see how much flavor a piece of chocolate loses when you eat it while holding your nose.

Picture an appetizing piece of food—let’s say a freshly baked pie.

Those enticing aromas waft up from it because it is releasing molecules and setting them adrift in the air currents.

Along comes your nose, sniffing away eagerly.

It sucks in air and sends those molecules on their way through the amazing machinery of our sense of smell.

Fragrances, odors and their effects on you

Perfumers, master chefs, and vintners have for centuries recognized the power of aromas to captivate the mind and please the senses.

Today, fragrance psychologists and biochemists are trying to tap the power of scent in new ways.

Experimenting with fragrances ranging from lily of the valley to apple and spice, odor engineers have pumped scents into schools, office buildings, nursing homes, and even a subway train in order to study effects on the mind and human behavior.

They claim that certain scents can affect moods, making people friendlier, improving their efficiency in the workplace, and even enhancing mental alertness.

According to The Futurist magazine, people line up at a fashionable health club in Tokyo, Japan, for a 30-minute “aroma cocktail” said to relieve the stress of city living.

Japanese scientists have also studied the effects of forest air on humans and recommend walking through forests as a remedy for jangled nerves.

The terpenes (pine scent) that trees exude have been found to relax not simply the body but especially the mind.

Not all odors are healthful; far from it.

What delights one person might well make another miserable.

Strong odors, even of perfumes, have long been known to aggravate asthma and trigger allergic reactions in some people.

Then, too, there are the malodors that everyone agrees on—noxious fumes spewed from industrial smokestacks and motor vehicle exhaust pipes, rancid odors of garbage landfills and sewage basins, and vapors from volatile chemicals used in many industrial workplaces.

Of course, dangerous chemicals occur naturally in our environment but are usually so diffuse as to be harmless.

However, when such chemicals are highly concentrated, overexposure to them can cause even the resilient olfactory nerve cells to degenerate.

For instance, solvents such as those used in paints, as well as many other industrial chemicals, have been listed by experts as hazardous to the olfactory system.

There are also physical disorders that can impede or destroy the sense of smell.

Surely the sense of smell is worth protecting from such threats wherever possible.

So familiarize yourself with the hazards of any chemicals you must work with, and take whatever reasonable precautions are necessary to protect your sensitive olfactory system.

On the other hand, it is good to be equally concerned about the sensitivities of others.

A high standard of cleanliness, including our homes and our bodies, can do much in this regard.

Some have also chosen to be extra cautious with the use of perfumes—especially when they plan to be in close proximity with many others for some time, as in a theater or a concert hall.

Effects of smell on the quality of life

Millions of people suffer smell dysfunction.

The fragrance of springtime or of flavorful food does little or nothing for them.

One woman described her sudden complete loss of smell this way:

We all know about blindness and deafness, and certainly I would never trade my disability for those afflictions. Yet we so take for granted the rich aroma of coffee and sweet flavor of oranges that when we lose these senses, it is almost as if we have forgotten how to breathe.”

Smell disorders can even be life-threatening.

A woman named Eva explains:

Not being able to smell, I have to be very careful. I shudder to think of winter coming, because I must close all the windows and doors to my apartment. Without the fresh air, I could easily be overcome by gas fumes if the pilot light went out on the gas stove.”

What causes smell dysfunction?

While there are over a score of causes, three are most common: head injury, upper respiratory viral infection, and sinus disease.

If the nerve pathways are severed, if the epithelium is rendered insensitive, or if air cannot reach the epithelium because of blockage or inflammation, the sense of smell vanishes.

Recognizing such disorders as a major problem, clinical research centers for the study of taste and smell have been established.