I can remember a long time ago at my old primary school, in the dusty library going over and over my reading with the librarian due to my dyslexia and getting nowhere. One fine summers day when the other students were enjoying PE I was once again stuck in the library trying my hardest to make progress with the gobbledygook letters before me. As my energies flagged the library/support teacher took pity on me and read for a while out loud so I could follow.
I can’t for the life of me remember the book or sadly even the librarians name, but it was during that particular season that I first learnt about the importance of smell to the senses. Whatever it was we were reading mentioned something about the smell of baking cookies bringing back memories for the character. I, the child whose appalling grasp of the English language had yet to spark the lifelong obsession with the books and libraries, scoffed at the notion and wanted to return to looking longingly at the sunshine out of the window. The un-named teacher closed the book and smilingly asked me to recall some smells, anything I could think of. Happy with this new game I recalled such smells that seem to obsess children, such as chocolate, dog food and face paints.
The librarian then asked me to recall the last time I had sniffed such things and how I felt at the time. Well, chocolate made me happy as did anything sugary. Dog food whilst unappealing was nice because we finally had the dog I had always wanted. And as for a flatulent father, he always made me laugh and was probably the best thing on the list. The librarian then explained how smelling things can trigger your cognitive functions and bring back memories and even feelings.
Despite dyslexia, I was a fairly astute child, even if I do say so myself, and found the idea intriguing, a sentiment that has lasted up unto this day.
As well as being a fantastic narrative tool for any writer, using our sense of smell in our real life can also make us more productive, confident and content. Poppycock I hear you say? Naturellement says I!
And here’s how…
1. Perfume to make you confident
While a smile is still the best finish to any outfit, it must also be said that perfume can increase confidence. Growing up I always saw perfume as a luxury item, its high-priced and often only worn on special occasions. This, in turn, makes it special.
A few years ago I decided to treat myself to a couple of days away on my very own ‘writing retreat’ where I booked myself into a luxury hotel for two nights. This meant getting dressed up for dinner despite dining alone. Before I left for my trip I bought a very special bottle of perfume from Gemspa that was reduced. I wore it when I was away, and every time have worn it since I remember how happy I was when writing at the hotel. I was well fed, relaxed, spoilt for choice with hot baths, soft bed, picturesque scenery and a spa! It was heaven.
And because I wore that particular perfume, its scent is integrated into my memory as a happy, relaxed time. But also, a time when I was very confident. After all going to stay away by yourself when your not on business is not everyone’s idea of a relaxing time, but it was a time that I built my confidence.
Smelling nice will also make you feel more attractive. As much as spandex might be sexy, the whiff of a work out most certainly is not! So after a shower in the morning try a personal scent to set your senses the right way for the day ahead. Trust me when I tell you that when ever I need a confidence boost, a quick spray of my favourite perfume defiantly makes me smile.
2. Lavender to mellow
Now this old wives tale is very accurate. Although some people can’t stand the smell, lavender has been used for centuries as a relaxing herb to scent gardens, make soothing tea’s and to flavour linens. As well as drinking lavender before bed as a relaxing beverage, spraying lavender water on a pillow can help with peaceful slumber.
Science not only backs this up but also suggest that lavender being sniffed can also ease anxiety. So it’s not just for overuse by grannies. Lavender is often used in dream pillows, small pouches stuffed with herbs that induce vivid and even lucid dreams.
So next time your insomnia gets the better of you, why not try a spritz on your pillow and see how sweetly you sleep.
3. Incense to help you focus
Now before you roll your eyes, pay heed. Incense has been used throughout time as an aid to meditation. Taking a step back from its brain tuning powers, let us review how humans are creatures of habit.
On any given day, all of us follow some kind of routine, however loosely. We get up, we get dressed, have breakfast etc. Now think of the other things you do in your day or would like to do. For example, I do a lot of studying for my degree, but sometimes the motivation just isn’t there. So what do I do? I fake it till I make it!
By creating a routine in preparation for study, I can trick my brain into being productive and focused. More often than not I sit at my dining room table to discern that I’m not there to make stuff up like when I am writing at my office desk. I make a cup of tea, turn some Tibetan singing bowls music on and light some incense. The smell of the incense is refreshing and gives my mind something to concentrate on when I can’t focus and this helps me to bring myself back to what I should be doing.
Give it a whirl, light some incense the next time you need to concentrate on something important and breath the fumes in deeply. Soon you will have created a scent triggered habit sending your problems up in smoke.
4. Citrus to feel fresh
One of my favorite organisational blogs/websites is called a bowlful of lemons. The reason I even found the site is simple. I liked the name. The title just screamed ‘clean’ and there wasn’t even a real lemon in sight.
Lemons as well as being a fantastic cleaning agents also help to mop up undesirable odours and replace them with a much sweeter one, hence their use in modern day cleaning products.
The same can be said for oranges. Did you know that just smelling an orange can make you feel instantly happier? It’s true, try it. Citrus fruits despite their acidity are a very healthful produce. Drinking water with slices of lemon, lime or orange can increase your metabolism. Their full of antioxidants and don’t just cut through the grease in the kitchen as they can help you have heather skin too.
As well as making you feel fresh Citrus as a by-product, will make you more energised. After all, who wants to hop, skip and jump when their feeling bedraggled?
So what are you waiting for? Go sniff some fruit!
5. Dust to make you nostalgic
There’s an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when Watcher Giles is confronted for his lack of enthusiasm for computers. When asked what it is he does not like about them, he replies ‘the smell’. You see, Rupert Giles doesn’t like the fact that computers do not smell, they have no pungent reminiscings. To quote:
“Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is. A certain flower or a whiff of smoke can bring up experiences long forgotten. Books smell…musty and rich.”
Rupert Giles, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 1,
Episode 8 – I Robot, You Jane
And frankly, I agree. Books will always get my vote for the aesthetic values they possess. While I love my iPad and the idea behind an immeasurable library on Kindle, there is no true substitute for a good book. And the smell is one of the reasons why. The musty scent left behind by dust, the lingering waft of the bee’s wax furniture polish I use on my bookcases, all bring together a smell that is just – contentment. What better way to recall your high flying adventures in fiction then lifting a new tome from the shelf!
I know I am never happy then with a good book. But what about you? Please leave your favorite scents and how they can enhance your life in the comments below.