The power of scent to recall happy memories

The Power of Scent to Recall Happy Memories

Have you ever wondered why is it that getting a whiff of a certain scent can instantly transport you back to a time or place in your past that you associate with that scent?

Just a brief whiff of particular brands of suncream has the ability to transport me back to holidays of many years past. Instantly, more specific memories and moments of those holidays come rushing back to my mind and put a smile on my face.

Similarly, the scent of cinnamon calls for memories of baking as a child with my long departed dear grandmother to come flooding back.

There is actually a scientific explanation for why certain scents induce such a feeling of nostalgia. In a nutshell, it has been discovered that the brain records scents in an area of the brain that carries out the function of producing long-term memories.


Scents From my own Childhood

Even simple everyday scents such as Pears soap and Bird’s custard (the latter I very rarely eat as an adult but was served it as a dessert with sliced banana once a week throughout my childhood) can stop me in my tracks as memories come flooding back. It caused me to ponder which scents from within our home my own children might store away in their long-term memories and be responsible for waves of nostalgia in their distant adulthoods. Here are a few possibilities based on prominent scents we have around the house…

Cleaning Product Scents

I always try to select cleaning products that have a pleasant scent. I love Zoflora concentrated disinfectants that come in a varied range of scents, my favourites have been lavender and green valley but there are many others. I have sometimes made my own kitchen surface cleaning spray with half white vinegar, half water and a few drops of an essential oil such as geranium, peppermint or lemon. If cleaning has to be carried out, you may as well add a pleasant aroma while you go about it!

Air Fresheners

When I’ve been cooking fish or anything else that causes strong odours to linger in the kitchen I spray Laura Ashley’s Olive and Italian Lemon Scented room spray. Just four or five pumps is sufficient to eliminate any odours and replace them with the most uplifting scent. Sadly, it appears that Laura Ashley have discontinued the spray but make a diffuser with the same scent which I imagine would continuously release a subtle, fresh scent into the kitchen.

I find plug-in air fresheners to be a little overpowering and when I spilled a tiny amount of the fragranced refill oil into a drawer once it took months of airing and scrubbing to try to remove it. Now and again I spray the corners of rooms with a little aerosol spray, especially in the winter months when the house gets less ventilation and may become a little stuffy. At present we have a cherry blossom and peony scented one which smells divine.

the power of scent to recall happy memories and nostalgia


Despite many women claiming to have a signature fragrance, I have never been able to stick to just one and flit between a few different scents. Generally though, I prefer light, citrus notes and am less keen on heavy florals. A couple of my current favourites include Beauty by Elizabeth Arden and French Connection’s Her.

Of course, exposure to scents that we love significantly boosts our happiness in the here and now too. In a previous post about savouring simple pleasures I mentioned that using a gorgeous smelling shower gel each morning has an uplifting effect.

How about you?

Which scents do you love to use in your home, even in simple things such as cleaning products? I would love to hear which scents make you feel nostalgic for your childhood, too.

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7 thoughts on “The Power of Scent to Recall Happy Memories

  1. OH, you are so right about scents taking you back in time. Every time I get a whiff of an almond/honey scent ( sometimes in a body wash or lotion) it takes me back to high school in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. A store that never returned after the disastrous flooding following Hurricane Agnes in 1972, called Issac Long’s, had that scent permeating the entire first floor. They sold specialty soaps and that scent was my favorite. But, oh, the hats in that store ( my mother bought a beautiful pink flowered creation for my sister’s wedding), and the great quality clothing. It was a little pricey for us, but the quality was worth it . A brown suede jacket I purchased there in 1969 was worn ( and not worn out) until 1980! So many beautiful things in that store…and the scent of that almond/honey takes me back to my high school days!

    Liked by 1 person

    • How amazing that the honey/almond scent brings back all those memories from your high school days, Ann!
      I’m starting to think it’s worth setting up a small box of memory inducing scents to sore alongside my photo albums, so effective they are at provoking memory recall.


      • A box of memory inducing scents is a brilliant idea. That’s not something I’ve ever thought about doing before. I’d love to see a how-to post if you decide to do that.


      • It wasn’t something I’d ever thought of until the moment I replied to Ann’s comment, either! I may add the scent box to my list of things to do….watch this space!


  2. I love this post and I especially love the seaside photo at the top. Where is that? I find it enchanting. I keep wanting to look at it again. 🙂 In terms of scents, there are so many lovely ones. Right now, I seem to be drawn to rose scented things.


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