Nosing the Past – The Good and the Bad

My Oma was a prodigious user of Comet. A whiff of that cleanser and I am instantly transported back to Oma's bathroom - the one with the white-enameled tub that seemed, at least to my toddler-self, as big as a swimming pool. That's a great memory for me and one I use with my techniques to get me into the Stress-Free Zone.

Your sense of smell can remind you of events that are less than pleasant. For example, the smell of burnt rubber may cause you to recall a car accident. Or the smell of ashtrays may remind you that you didn't feel safe when those raucous parties took place in your home. These smells trigger the release of stress hormones so quickly, that unless you are aware of what has happened, you may find yourself suddenly feeling ill-at-ease, sad or fearful.

Other smells may instantly cause you to smile or feel a sense of comfort - they're the ones that generate happy feelings. Someone walks by and their cologne reminds you of your first kiss. The pleasant memory and feelings of sitting around a camp-fire on a warm summer's evening may be gently blown your way when you are out on an evening stroll and you smell your neighbour's wood-burning fireplace.

The sense of smell can elicit emotions that signal your brain to inundate your body with chemicals. Positive emotions cause a chemical cascade that leave you feeling good. Negative emotions produce chemical changes that prepare the body for flight or fight, otherwise known as the stress response. This is biological programming from caveman days which is still activated in our 21st century bodies in response to the perception of danger, regardless of whether it is seen, smelled, heard or felt.

When you are aware of this process, you are then in a position to change your perceptions which gives you greater control to activate feel-good techniques. As you nose around in your past, you can train yourself to make scents of memories that create a feeling of well-being and less stress.

What "scentual" memories does your nose know?

6 Replies to “Nosing the Past – The Good and the Bad”

  1. Marianna,
    What a lovely post – and so true!

    When I was 6 years old, my family rented a home in Smithville, MO, while we built our new house in the country. During that time, I had the privilege of walking all by myself to retrieve our mail from the local post office.

    Barely tall enough to see above the counter, I recall the friendly postal service employee asking my name before he generously handed the day’s mail to me. It was a ‘big deal’ to a little, 6-year-old girl to hold such responsibility on her family’s behalf.

    To this day, the smell of a post office brings back gentle, sweet memories of youth, feelings of confidence, joy and simple pleasures.

    As well, your story of Oma and the cleanser she used is a great example! A ‘whiff’ is all it takes to be transported (good point).

    The ability to immerse yourself in a time past when your little-girl perspective was so delightfully DIFFERENT from today’s perspective as an adult (i.e., white-enameled tub as ‘big as a swimming pool’).

    Thank you for sharing, educating, reminding and informing your readers about techniques that move us into stress-free living.

    Jacqui (@ValueIntoWords)

  2. Jacquie,
    I can see it now…that dusty (I assume?) trip down the road to the post office. What a milestone in a little girl’s life – being “big enough” to collect the mail!

    In the recounting of this story, you’ve connected a memory, like pearls strung together on a necklace, to another “scentual” experience from days gone by.

    Thanks for adding more pearls to the chain of life.

  3. What a beautiful post! One of my most wonderful and treasured memories is the laughs of children playing under the rain. I used to do that during my teenage years with my cousins and neighbors of nearly the same age. That was fun.

    It’s nice to reminisce those times because it’s a stress free life.

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