Exploring the Relationship Between Scent and Memory

You walk into someone’s home and suddenly recall Sunday afternoons at your grandmother’s house. You step out onto a beach and feel transported to summer vacations from your childhood. What gives?

Countless studies have shown that the link between scent and memory is a strong one. In fact, scent may trigger memories in ways that other senses don’t.

Why is this connection so strong? Why do scent memories bring back such vivid images, thoughts, and emotional reactions?

We’re here to provide a brief and easy-to-follow guide unpacking what scientists know about the connection between memory and scent.

Smell and the Limbic System

Your limbic system includes structures like the amygdala and hippocampus. These are considered some of the oldest parts of the human brain. Why is this important?

The limbic system is responsible for a lot of our emotional reactions and perceptions. The olfactory system (the system responsible for our sense of smell) has direct access to the limbic system. What that means for us is that our sense of smell interacts quite closely with our emotional perceptions.

Unlocking Forgotten Moments

What’s the significance of smell and emotion having such close ties? Think about the times that a certain scent has triggered a certain memory. Oftentimes, it’s something we haven’t thought about in some time, yet we have such a strong reaction to it when it arises.

This is because these “forgotten” or unexamined memories haven’t been disturbed by time. We haven’t reasoned with them or changed the way we respond to them emotionally. As a result, when the memory is triggered by scent, those original emotions are still intact and come back to us in a vivid, evocative way.

Building Scent Memories of Your Own

This information is interesting, certainly, but it’s also useful. Is it possible to “hack” the connection between scent and memory? We think that it is.

You work hard to cultivate a happy and peaceful home. Chances are, you feel most at ease and most yourself when you spend time around the house. By harnessing the power of scent, you may be able to take that feeling outside of the house and find ease out in the world.

How could this work? Head to and pick out a few essential oils and a diffuser. Use those scents throughout your home so that any time you encounter them elsewhere, you get an instant boost of relaxation.

Take Charge of the Link Between Scent and Memory

The connection between scent and memory is a strong one. By creating specific and positive scent memories of your own, you can take control of your emotional responses out in the world. Which scents will you use to give yourself an instant boost of relaxation?

Looking for more ways to hack your lifestyle for the better? Take a look around as we discuss tips, tricks, and information that will allow you to make positive changes and live your best life.

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