Boost your health and mood by surrounding yourself with pleasant scents
“Perfume is the art that makes memory speak.” Francis Kurkdjian
Perfume is a powerful tool to express our personality, build our self-image and engage with others. Cross-culturally, fragrances are used to modulate body odour, but the psychology of fragrances has been largely overlooked, and is in fact more complex than just providing daily hygiene.
History of perfumery
The history of perfumes is definitely not recent. Their origin is commonly attributed to the ancient Egyptians, who utilised scents to celebrate prayers and religious ceremonies by burning essential oils, resins, and perfumed unguents. Even in ancient Greece or Rome, the art of perfumery used to accompany everyday life of common people, as they kept associating perfumes both to the sacred and the profane sphere. Thanks to the reciprocal influences between Western acquisitions and Arab scientific knowledge, the world gained a new approach to produce the fragrances we possess now: the art of distillation (Tailor Made Fragrance).
In the line of scent: the Mind-Body connection
Smell is our oldest sense. During many years of studies, biologists and olfactory branding specialists have discovered that smell and memory seem to be so closely linked because of the brain anatomy. Smells are handled by TAARs receptors in the olfactory bulb, the structure in the front of the brain that sends information to the other areas of the body. Odors take a direct route to the limbic system, including the amygdala and the hippocampus, the regions related to emotions and formation of new memories (Walsh, 2020). On a practical level, that means that you may be able to use your sense of smell to prompt your memory when taking a test. Researchers suggest that your ability to recall information may be improved by inhaling an odour you breathed while absorbing information—so fire up a stick of incense while studying, then bring a vial of that essential oil to a big test.
Fragrances do more than stimulate memory and desire:, they can also affect our behaviour in the present moment, triggering a physiological response. Many fragrances possess strong associative properties, and work easily to alter the mood, promoting increased alertness and positivity, or creating feelings of calm, tranquility, and relaxation. “Surprisingly, fragrances also improve pain tolerance, by activating opioid systems in the brain”, says Australian psychologist John Prescott (cited in PT Staff, 2007). They can be helpful in alleviating stress, easing insomnia, providing clarity and focus.
How scent affects attraction
Smell may be the most important factor in physical attraction, because the nose can suss out complex mechanisms like sexual compatibility, although the conscious mind is unaware of it. The human body has more than 100 immune system genes known as the MHC (Major Histocompatibility Complex), that also determine histocompatibility, influencing human mating choices. In MHC experiments, women have been generally attracted to the smell of men more immunologically dissimilar to themselves. This makes biological sense, as pairing dissimilar immune systems can mean healthier offspring (Kromer et al, 2016).
Remember that by choosing to wear a fragrance you are finding an effective way to enhance your wellbeing and self-esteem. The smell savvy that helps you perform better on a test or cope more effectively with pain also helps you shape the impression you make on others. So, if you want to be remembered, choose your personal scents carefully. A signature fragrance will become something that confers distinction upon you, making you stand out from the crowd…
1. Kromer, J., Hummel, T., Pietrowski, D., Giani, A. S., Sauter, J., Ehninger, G., Schmidt, A. H. and Croy, I. (2016) 'Influence of HLA on human partnership and sexual satisfaction', Sci. Rep. 6, 32550; doi: 10.1038/srep32550.
2. Prescott, J. (2007) in PT Staff The Hidden Force of Fragrance [Online]. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/articles/200711/the-hidden-force-fragrance (Accessed: 21 December 2021).
3. Tailor Made Fragrance (no date) History of perfume [Online]. Available at:
https://www.tailormadefragrance.com/en_int/history_of_perfume (Accessed: 21 December 2021).
4. Walsh, C. (2020) 'What the nose knows', The Harvard Gazette, 27 February [Online]. Available at: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/02/how-scent-emotion-and-memory-are-intertwined-and-exploited/ (Accessed: 21 December 2021).