The Scent of Memories

In mid-May our lilacs were in full bloom. After cutting a vase full and placing them on the kitchen table our house smelled like heaven!

When I shared this on Facebook, dozens of people responded. One in particular pulled at my heartstrings:

My great grandmother died when I was five years old but to this day, whenever I smell lilacs, I have vivid memories of her and the lilac sachets in her lingerie drawer.”

Sight is our strongest sense for short-term memory. It’s estimated that up to 73 percent of our short-term memory is through what we see.

Smell is the strongest and most vivid sense for long-term memories. Certain smells can trigger memories we haven’t thought of in years.

We make memories through our senses and it’s through these same senses that we recall our memories.

Each of our senses makes its own connection for the same experience. When we see a dog and stop to pet it, we double our memory of it! When we think, talk, or write about something, we make even more triggers for that experience.

What memories are you making today for the future?

Listen with your heart,

Laurie Buchanan

Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”
— Laurie Buchanan

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Only the Nose Knows

“When from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.” — Marcel Proust

Dogs interpret the world through their nose by Laurie Buchanan

Dogs interpret the world through their nose by Laurie Buchanan

Of all the senses, smell is the best at bringing memories to the surface. The smell of what my mom called “Porcupines” (meatballs made with rice) immediately transports me to the kitchen of my childhood. The smell of gardenia takes me to Presidio Park in southern California. And like a magic carpet ride, the smell of evergreen with a hint of barnyard whisks me to the Highlands of Scotland.

Odors stimulate chemoreceptors in the nose by Len Buchanan

Odors stimulate chemoreceptors in the nose by Len Buchanan

When an odor stimulates chemoreceptors in the nose, they send electrical impulses to the brain. In turn, the brain interprets patterns in electrical activity as specific odors and olfactory sensation becomes perception that’s linked to the amygdala and hippocampus—parts in the brain that process emotion and are fundamental to our behavior, mood, and memory.

More so than seeing or hearing, different smells serve as keys that unlock memories—of people, places, and things—in our brain.

What is your favorite smell/memory association? Click To Tweet

What’s your favorite smell/memory association?