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4 reasons to work on your smelling skills

There are good reasons to try improve your sense of smell besides making food tastier and enjoying the delicious aromas of foods, fresh coffee, good wine and perfumes.

1. Improve your mood

 Stimulation by various smells has been shown in clinical studies to affect your mood, either positively or negatively. Pleasant smells can improve your mood. This in turn can help you feel more positive as well as combat stress due to negative feelings. Starting the day with a smell you enjoy will be a positive start to the day (and probably explains why people enjoy using after shave lotions and perfumes).

2. Make you feel calm

 It has also been shown that smells can increase calmness (make you feel calm) which in turn can help you manage daily stress levels. On the other hand it has been suggested that neutral smells associated with a period of anxiety become perceived as unpleasant smells which in turn can fuel a further increase in anxiety level. This tight link between smell and emotions can potentially be used to help you manage your stress

3. Improve your performance

 In addition to smell being strongly linked to emotion, studies have shown that certain smells can directly affect the part of the nervous system which controls basic body functions such as blood pressure and respiratory rate. Other studies have shown that certain smells can stimulate faster body movement (‘increased motor response). Therefore, various smells can increase your alertness level which can potentially benefit your daily work, study or physical performances.

4. Improve your memory

It has also been shown that odors and memory are tightly linked to each other. Indeed, a smell associated with a specific memory leads to faster recall of that memory. Therefore paying attention to the various smells around you may help you recall various memories and could be used as cues to retrieve past memories quicker and more efficiently.

 

Here Are Suggestions to Improve Your Sense of Smell:

  • Breathe deeply and enjoy the smell of whatever you are smelling. Hold it in for a while.
  • Exercise. This helps possibly because of the increased blow flow to the nose during exercise, but we are not sure if this is the reason. One’s sense of smell does seem to be better after exercising.
  • Smell foods before you eat them (though this may seem rude in some societies).
  • Sometimes try visualize the smell of something you like.
  • Some people have reduced smell sensation as a result of deficiency of zinc or Vitamin B12 (usually vegetarians). You could try and eat foods rich in zinc (pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, lentils, pecan nuts, sunflower seeds, dark chocolate, wheat germ) or take multivitamin tablets.
  • If your nose is congested due to an underlying problem, then a nasal spray may help (speak with your doctor).

Sources:
Cognitive facilitation following intentional odor exposure. Johnson AJ. Sensors (Basel). 2011;11(5):5469-88. doi: 10.3390/s110505469. Epub 2011 May 19.

The impact of natural odors on affective states in humans. Weber ST, Heuberger E. Chem Senses. 2008 Jun;33(5):441-7. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjn011. Epub 2008 Mar 18.

Effects of chiral fragrances on human autonomic nervous system parameters and self-evaluation. Heuberger E, Hongratanaworakit T, Böhm C, Weber R, Buchbauer G. Chem Senses. 2001 Mar;26(3):281-92.

Effects of olfactory stimuli on arm-reaching duration. Tubaldi F, Ansuini C, Demattè ML, Tirindelli R, Castiello U. Chem Senses. 2008 Jun;33(5):433-40. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjn010. Epub 2008 Mar 15.

When the sense of smell meets emotion: anxiety-state-dependent olfactory processing and neural circuitry adaptation. Krusemark EA, Novak LR, Gitelman DR, Li W. J Neurosci. 2013 Sep 25;33(39):15324-32. doi: 10.1523/JNeurosci.1835-13.2013.

The ability of odours to serve as state-dependent cues for real-world memories: can Viking smells aid the recall of Viking experiences? Aggleton JP, Waskett L. Br J Psychol. 1999 Feb;90 ( Pt 1):1-7.