The Smell of Nostalgia

Have you ever walked into a room and smelled something that transported you to another point in time?

A distant memory or maybe smelled something that even reminded you of someone? The other day I went for a run and happened to pass a patch of freshly cut grass, it hit me like a bus, halting me to a complete stop.

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, thinking back on my childhood and the farm town I grew up in.

I felt the warm sun of summers day while my dad mowed the lawn and long road trips where I would lean my head against the open window to smell the fresh pastures along the way. I open my eyes and tears glaze over me, wind hits my face and in that precious moment I feel so alive.

How is it that our senses can cause us to feel so much emotion and bring on such intricate memories? I decided to do a little research and found that do to our brain anatomy, smells are first processed by the olfactory bulb, which starts at the nose and runs all the way to the bottom of the brain. This bulb has direct connections to the two brain areas that are strongly associated with emotion and memory: The amygadala and hippocampus,(It's like a campus for hippos), but the rest of our senses do not.

I found this very interesting and decided to continue to learn more about this amazing sense and I stumbled upon a long list of smelling disorders, some with inability to smell (anosmia), hyperosmia an abnormally acute sense of smell and olfactory reference syndrome, which is a phycological disorder that causes the patient to imagine he or she has a strong body odour!!

Now can you just imagine that? Not being able to smell! What would food taste like?

I met someone who lost their ability to smell and she shared with me that the thing she missed the most was the smell of freshly washed sheets. Whenever she felt homesick she would have her mother send her a vacuum sealed pillow case, which she would open and the smell of home would pour out and transport her into her bedroom thousands of miles away.

It made me feel sad, that she couldn't experience this anymore and it also brought on feelings of gratefulness. How lucky am I, to be able to smell! It is the sense that allows you to smell coffee, fresh flowers, baby shampoo and our mothers perfume. Now, every-time I visit home, I make sure to wash all my clothes with my parents detergent so when I open my suitcase, it feels like I brought a little piece of home with me.