Smells and Nostalgia

smells trigger memories

Did you know that most of the memories you make are registered and distinguished on the basis of smell? Smells trigger memories. You can leave an impression on any one just by your cologne. Two things take you back in time, painful reminders of people and the smell of them.

Has it ever occurred to you, for instance, that you were back in the 8th standard, playing tic tac toe with your friends? My great aunt Kelly, has the same smell as my teacher used to wear in the 8th standard so whenever I go to visit her, I visit all those 8th standard memories. 

Smells have a lot more to do than just making you seem good. They preserve memories in their own way. These memories are strong. Since more than one senses of our body is capturing this essence. Let’s take a deeper insight of how smells bring gratitude to our lives. 

Smells are remembered for a long time

(Smells go into the parts of the brain where memory processing occurs) 

According to research, smells make more profound memories than any other sense. But the question is how does smell does this? Well, as we know there are five senses, seeing, smelling, touching, tasting and hearing. All these senses help us record memories.

However, the most permanent memories you make are because of smelling. The human brain, profoundly complex, yet quite unique in its own way. The human brain tends to remember smells for a long time, you can be 80 years old and just one smell could make you feel 16 again. Neuro receptors are responsible for registering all your senses, then converting them into electric signals which your brain can comprehend. 

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Cells called dendrites read information from your senses and then report back to your brain. The dendrites responsible for smelling are longer than others, hence they travel with more information, hence, more information, more memories.

Even when you’re not paying attention, your brain is. Your brain records everything you see, hear or smell. While reading this you didn’t pay attention to the voice of the wind, however, you heard it as soon as I mentioned it.

Similarly, your brain is recording all kinds of smells, smells which make you nostalgic or nauseous. Specific humans have specific smells, we identify them on the basis of their looks and how they smell. Many people have similar smells and similar smells can make you nostalgic. 

Smell-induced memories are strong

What are memories? Have you ever wondered how a human makes memories? Many would compare a human brain to a computer and think that our mind records memories in the same way. However, this logic is not absolutely correct.

Our brain likes to form strong connection between the memories and senses, which can later be used to revisit those memories. A song can take you back to a beach day you had with friends or a game you liked to play. For me, whenever I hear Akon singing “Right Now Na Na Na”, I’m reminded of my playstation and set of games I had.

Similarly, whenever I smell the scent of roses, I’m reminded of my Grandma who used to keep flowers with her. That is how our brain stimulates and builds connection between memories. 

Now, for a think tank, do you know why we experience Deja Vu? You’ll find out by the end of this article. 

Smells can make you remember a memory more accurately than it actually was

Does it ever occur to you that you missed out some technicality or someone said something means and you realized it later? How does this happen?

It happens because our brain is comprehending everything, in our environment. It records everything in the subconscious and when we revisit our memories, we discover several different aspects of it happening. Sometimes you remember a key placed in your drawer by someone, or someone left their jacket at your place by mistake.

Our brain distinguished memory on the basis of senses, the stronger the sense is, the stronger the memory. So you might forget something but a smell could remind you of it. For instance, the smell of your favorite pizza place could remind you of a conversation you had with someone there.

Several different memories could come back to you in an instant. You could remember an advice your dad gave you back then, which you ignored, but now it seems to be important. 

The past can not come back but smells can make you go back into that vibe (childhood memories and all)

We used to have a dog named Casper, even though I didn’t get to spend much time with him, but whenever I smell fresh baked cookies, my mind automatically reminds me of him. Our memories and connections are so strong that my brain remembers the smell of my mother’s freshly baked cookies, and whenever I smell it, it takes me back to when I was 8 and Casper was my best friend. 

Now, for a movie reference, have you seen the movie Lucy? Scarlett Johanson is suddenly reminded of a dog her parents had when she was only an infant. However, psychology tells us that, our brain starts to register memories and experiences from the time we’re born but our brain is conscious by the age of 5.

Then how could she remember a dog they had when she was an infant? What was the logic? She remembered everything because her senses were dialed to 11, so she could smell everything, which enabled her to visit memories she had never made. Mind boggling as the movie might seem, but this theory was tested and proven to be accurate. 

Now to answer your think tank, we experience deja vu because our brain revisits memories which we have already and all of it feels so real that you can’t tell the difference between reality and memories. This process is so quick that we feel like we lived a moment twice, however, it is the old memory getting in your way. 

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