The Power of Smell
Our sense of smell is often something we don’t appreciate fully enough, not as much as we do our other senses. However, living without the sense of smell can be a challenge. Did you know that without it, food tastes bland and thus you can’t enjoy your meal’s full flavor?
Smell is a wonderful sense in many ways. It can trigger memories from a few days before, or it can send you all the way back to your earliest memories as a child. In fact, it is the most powerful sense for effectively triggering old recollections. It can make you feel nostalgic in a split second. The smell of chlorine in the fitness club you just signed up for might take you back to the pool your parents had in their house when you were a kid. A certain perfume might remind you of a dear old aunt who always wore it. The smell of a particular meal might make you think of that comfort food your mom made for you whenever you were sad.
And of course, the most common association we make with smell is food. Smelling food is the next best thing to tasting it. Have you ever walked into a chocolate store where the air is so loaded with the chocolate aroma that it feels almost as if you just ate a few? Or you probably have that perfect memory of that moment right before Thanksgiving dinner when the whole house smelled like the turkey and gravy your mom was roasting in the oven.
Almost all cultures in the world have an aversion to bad smell. Thus, we naturally try to smell nice. We buy deodorants, changing between brands to get one that really works for us. We even buy foot deodorants to make sure our feet smell decently enough. During your last trip to the grocery store you might have also bought spray to give your living room a certain relaxing scent that you like to walk into whenever you get home. Air fresheners with natural scents have also become a must-have in every bathroom to make toilet time more bearable. Who doesn’t like walking into a bathroom that smells like lilies?
Whether on the personal, social, or cultural levels, we tend to develop this natural disgust of unpleasant smells. However, the truth is that bad smell also exists as a way for our body to warn us of potential danger or damage. For instance, you forgot to discard that carton of left-over milk in the fridge before leaving for vacation. When you come home weeks later and reach out for this spoiled milk, your nose immediately warns you not to drink it due to its pungent smell. Another instance demonstrating the importance and purpose of bad smells is when we start noticing the stench of a dead rat, the reek of our pets or even our own body odor. These signal us to clean up.
So instead of cursing smells you don’t like, consider appreciating them for what they are: another form of communication between the world and yourself. In other words, all sorts of smells, scents, and stench alike, exist for us to interpret or learn from.