Scents & Sensibility: The Power Your Sense of Smell Holds Over Your Emotions
Most of us have experienced moments in our lives where a particular smell brings an old memory right to the front of our mind with incredible detail. In a study at Northwestern University researchers are looking into the link between the sense of smell and our emotions and why a certain perfume or the scent of baking pie can conjure memories of a long-dead loved one. While conversely, the smell of diesel fuel might trigger a flashback for a soldier suffering from PTSD.
Aroma Induced Time Travel
If I smell a particular home baking smell I can instantly see my Great Aunt Edna's kitchen, I can see her, her apron, the cooker, the griddle she used to make me Welsh cakes, the kitchen table where I sat to eat them. Everything in such incredible detail. Just from one brief whiff of a particular baking smell I'm instantly transported with full recall to that moment.
Sometimes we might find ourselves perfectly recalling an event that we thought we had forgotten about, but there it is available to us in stunning detail due to one specific scent flipping open a file in our brain, and there it is a complete memory with all it's detail. We can see what we saw at that time, hear what we heard, it's all there. What's also there is the emotional recall, instantly we feel how we were feeling at that time. In the case of Aunt Edna's kitchen that's a nice experience.
But what if the memory wasn't so good? To use a mild example, I used to feel nervous when I smelled methylated spirits. Why? Because the smell took me straight back to waiting to see my childhood dentist. The smell of meths still brings an image of a shiny lino floor leading from the waiting room to the room I sat in to have a tooth extracted, but due to a little trick I learned some years ago, it's now a memory without any sense of nervousness.
Scents and Stress
As we walk around the scents and sights of the world are having an impact on us all the time, so it's very useful to know some tricks to minimise stress and anxiety and keep ourselves in balance.
If a scent evokes a happy memory from the past, when can take a moment to recall it and allow the happy chemicals in our brain to do their thing, but if it's a negative memory then we are subject to recalling the full discomfort of that experience and sometimes that discomfort can be intense and have a direct effect on our emotional state and stress levels.
Here's a useful way to diffuse negative emotions triggered by any specific scent. So that when you smell them again in the future you don't have to be pulled back in time to relive unwanted emotional reactions to the associated event. The memory remains, but the emotional intensity goes.
Using EFT to Clear Negative Scent Induced Memories
We’ll be using one of my favourite personal development tools: Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT for short). EFT looks a little unusual when you first try it, but it works brilliantly for diffusing unwanted emotional states, this illustrated quick guide will give you everything you need to get started. You might want to print it out for your convenience - if so, you can download the Quick Start Guide to EFT in PDF format here
There are many ways to use EFT to clear negative memories. Perhaps the simplest is to use it “in the moment”. For example, if you have noticed that the smell of petrol produces a sense of unease in you, you can work through the EFT steps focused on that unease. You might like to note where you feel the unease in your body and put your attention on that place while using the EFT tapping sequence.
Armed with your Quick Guide to EFT all you need to do is become aware of your emotional responses to the smells around you. Should you notice any uncomfortable nostalgia or anxiety, all you need to do is tune into that feeling as described in the EFT instructions and tap your way through the sequence.
Another good way to use EFT for working with smell induced sensations is to free yourself from cravings for certain foods. Supermarkets, bakers and coffee houses are well aware of the influential power your nose has over your stomach. Some food smells have a powerful anchoring effect that literally leads you by the nose to buy or eat what you smell while you shop. With EFT you can tap away cravings for fresh bread, cakes, coffee etc. Again. It’s simply a matter of noting how you feel and using that information to zip through the EFT tapping sequence until you feel impervious to the desire to throw 6 fresh hot loaves of bread in your trolley.
Note: Please seek the help of a Licensed EFT Practitioner or health professional if you find yourself dealing with strong emotional responses that are beyond your comfort level to tackle as a self-help exercise.
Photo by jurek d.
Resources & Further Reading:
Article: How to Do EFT