We’ve all experienced it—a captivating and familiar aroma that reminds you of a past event, place, or person. The scent may even trigger emotions so strong you feel you are actually there and reliving the past. It could be grandma’s gingerbread cookies, a fresh cut fir tree, the mouthwatering aroma of a holiday meal, or a host of other familiar smells. These experiences associated with aromas are called scent memories and demonstrate the powerful influence smell has on memories and emotions.
Your sense of smell is directly linked to the brain. Through this direct connection, odor molecules are carried by the olfactory bulb to the amygdala (the part of our brain involved in personal experiences and emotions) and the hippocampus (the part of the brain involved in associative learning). Collectively, the amygdala and hippocampus coordinate a conditioned response that rapidly links familiar aromas with memories and their associated memories.
Interestingly enough, nervous system communication from visual, auditory (sound), and tactile (touch) senses do not pass through these brain areas. This may help explain why the sense of smell is most effective at triggering nostalgic memories and prior emotions. Indeed, scientists have recently revealed that scent (olfactory) receptors are not isolated to cells in the nose, but found in distant areas of the body. This demonstrates that the sense of smell is far more complex and integrated into our body functions than we ever imagined.
Nostalgic memories that are triggered regularly during this time of year usually involve holiday traditions and favorite foods. Essential oils can be an important part of these holiday traditions and interact with the brain to trigger positive memories and emotions. They can also cement your holiday memories into the brain for later retrieval.
- Woodsy oils like balsam fir essential oil, pine essential oil, and spruce essential oil can be combined or used individually to invoke memories of holiday trees and wreaths.
- Essential oils from spices like cinnamon essential oil, clove essential oil, ginger essential oil, and nutmeg essential oil bring about a nostalgic reminder of holiday drinks, cookies, and beverages.
- Orange essential oil and tangerine essential oil may remind you of gifts received and bring joy to the heart.
- Uniting peppermint essential oil and pine essential oils brings memories of brisk winter air and the holiday season.
Whatever essential oils you enjoy during the holidays, they’re sure to summon joyful memories of the past. Diffuse your favorite holiday scents to invite the warmth of the holidays into your home and you and your family can begin creating cherished moments forever to be remembered.