Most people consider smell to be the least important of the five senses. But did you know that smell actually accounts for around 80% of our experience of taste? That fact alone should move smell ahead of taste in that list, right? Our sense of smell is so downright magical it can transport us back to childhood memories, help us make decisions, alert us to danger, and change our moods and the behaviors of others. Our sense of smell can tell you a lot about the world around us, and about ourselves. Here are 8 reasons our sense of smell is important and deserves more of our respect.
1. Smell affects your mood
If you’re having a bad day, a pleasant smell can help turn things around. The opposite is also true – if you’re smelling something foul, it’s likely to put you in a bad mood. That’s because smells are linked to memories and emotions and why aromatherapy is such a popular way to improve your mood and state of mind. For example, the scent of lavender is known to be calming, while the scent of citrus can be energizing.
2. Smell affects taste and your appetite
I think we all knew that our sense of smell impacted taste, but who knew that taste was 80% dependent on sense of smell and our olfactory system. Certain smells can also stimulate our appetite, even when we’re not hungry. This is because smell and taste are closely linked. When you smell something delicious, your brain starts to crave it and your mouth starts to water. This is why bakeries always have such tantalizing smells wafting through the air – they want to make you hungry! If you’re trying to lose weight, it might be helpful to avoid places with strong food smells. Have you ever noticed how certain smells make you hungry?
3. Smell can help you focus
If you’re having trouble concentrating, try using a diffuser with essential oils like lemon or rosemary. These scents have been shown to improve focus and mental clarity. The scent of peppermint has been shown to improve memory and concentration. If you’re trying to study for a test or finish a project at work, try diffusing some peppermint essential oil into the air for an extra mental boost. On the other hand, certain smells can also be distracting (think: stinky lunchroom). So pay attention to what scents make you more productive and stick with those.
4. Smell can trigger memories
Have you ever smelled something and been transported back to another time and place? That’s because scent is closely linked with memory in our brains. It’s a complicated process. But basically, our olfactory bulb which processes smells is part of the limbic system—the area of the brain associated with emotion and memory. This is another reason why some people love certain smells while others can’t stand them—they’re associated with past experiences. For example, the smell of baking cookies might remind you of your childhood, while the smell of smoke might remind you of a traumatic event.
5. How you smell can affect how people behave towards you
Believe it or not, the way you smell can actually influence how others perceive and interact with you. People who wear cologne or perfume are often perceived as more confident and attractive than those who don’t wear any scent at all. And, if you want to be more persuasive, try wearing jasmine—it’s been shown to increase people’s willingness to trust others. On the flip side, if you wear a strong scent that someone else finds unpleasant, they may avoid interacting with you altogether. So choose your fragrance carefully!
6. Smell can indicate danger
One of the most important functions of our sense of smell is to warn us of danger. If we smell a foul odor with food, we know not to eat it. If we smell smoke or a gas leak, we know to get out of the building. Our brains are hardwired to respond quickly to potentially dangerous situations like this, which is why our sense of smell is so important.
7. Smells can influence our stress hormones
The way we smell can actually influence our hormones—specifically, our stress hormone levels. According to new research, the scent of a loved one might help reduce levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) and make us feel calmer. Not surprisingly, being exposed to a strange person’s scent had the exact opposite effect and raised levels of cortisol. Certain scents like lavender and jasmine have also been shown to decrease levels of stress hormones in the body, while other scents like citrus have been shown to increase levels of cortisol. So if you’re stressed out about a trip without your partner, bring along their t-shirt.
8. Smells can make us feel more connected to others
When we share a pleasant smell with someone else, it can actually increase feelings of closeness and connection between us. This is because, when we share a pleasant smell with someone, it releases oxytocin (the “love hormone”) in both of your brains, which helps promote bonding and attachment. So next time you want to feel closer to someone, try sharing a pleasant scent with them!
So there you have it! Reasons why our sense of smell is so important.
Who knew that such a small thing like a nose could have such a big impact on our lives? The next time you go about your day, take a moment to pay attention to the different smells around you and how they make you feel. You might be surprised at just how powerful this underappreciated sense really is!