“The act of smelling something, anything, is remarkably like the act of thinking. Immediately at the moment of perception, you can feel the mind going to work, polling one center of the brain after another for signs of recognition, for old memories and old connection.” – Lewis Thomas
Our sense of smell is ancient; primal as well as the source of our most powerful emotional memories. This is also the sensory pathway which is the key to sexual attraction and compatibility. These facts belie the little attention that our sense of smell evokes- partly this is because we have so little language for scent. Our scent language is often limited to “it smells like…” and our recognition of scents is often clearly delineated between pleasant and unpleasant. But there is a world of scent cognition that goes unrecognized every day and new research into the remarkable olfactory processing of life is demonstrating how seemingly invisible forces actually color what we see and hear as well.
Recent research discoveries have shown that we find things both more beautiful and memorable when they are combined with a pleasant scent. We know this reality intuitively when we are hungry. Almost any food looks so much better when our sense of smell gets involved. Deeper still, many casinos and theme parks pipe in pleasant scents, which have positive effects on everything from how long people stay and how much money they spend. Both women and men have ranked opposite sex photos higher when they viewed them with a pleasant scent as opposed to unpleasant or neutral odors.
This finding might lead you to pour on the fragrances. While this might get you the first or second date you are dreaming of, scent incompatibility cannot be masked for long. We each have a unique scent fingerprint which is detected deep in our brains, in neural pathways that are normally reserved for making the distinction between fearful and familiar stimuli. There is good reason for our body to go into overdrive when it comes to the scent of a stranger’s body odor- this is the way that nature has provided to keep us from mating with people who are too biologically similar to us. We do actually smell fear on someone else, as we do aggression. Like other mammals, our sense of smell when it comes to each other continues to be an instinct of survival.
Still, expanding the language of your nose and thinking through your sense of smell is mind expanding first and foremost because concentrating on the scents around you brings you fully into the moment you are in. Because smell, more than any of our other sense is processed alongside our emotional center with our arousal mechanism a close cousin, waking up to scent and using it strategically with intimate partners can be a game changer for romance. Scent is the often invisible yet profound sense that adds the depth and texture that makes life the rich and varied tapestry that it is.
Imagine not being able to smell or taste not just a ripe melon, but your lover. The experience would then be almost inaccessible. Practice smelling, indulge in scent and taste and bear witness to the emotional response that accompanies this. It will surprise you. I have been promoting the use of true scent products that enhance your own natural chemistry for years. Products made chemically are not just bad for your most sensitive tissue, but also cover up your own natural odor and may just interfere with our ability to find and smell our true mates. So take this message to heart and as you breathe- inhale deeply, build your vocabulary and experience of scent especially around the people you love most. It will make you feel better.