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Memory, Emotion, and Attraction: How I Make the Power of Scent Work For Me

3 years old boy smelling rose flower in spring day.

I want to let you in on one of my favorite tricks. But be careful, ‘cause it’s a powerful tool.

Whenever I travel to a new place, I preface the trip with a visit to Bath & Body Works to choose a new lotion. I smell all the ones that look remotely inviting, and once I’ve made my choice, I tuck it away. I don’t open the bottle again until I get to my new destination.

While I’m at the new place, I put on a little bit every time I think about it. I carry it in my bag and I keep my hands soft and moisturized. I put some on after the shower or an afternoon in the sun. Apply liberally. Each time I put it on my hands and arms, I take a few extra seconds to intentionally breathe it in. This part is so important: I’m imprinting a memory.

When I get home, I put it away. No opening that bottle for two weeks. That’s my rule.

And then, after two weeks, I open the bottle, close my eyes, and take a deep breath. Instantly I am flooded with memories of the best parts of the trip I just took. From that day forward, every time I open the bottle, I get to go back in my mind.

The thing is, the part of your brain that processes smell is also the part that processes memories. Through the process of conditioned learning, or imprinting the scent with the experience, you are creating a new neuro-pathway in your mind.3 years old boy smelling rose flower in spring day.

So, your sense of smell has the ability of time travel. You can go anywhere you’ve been with a scent on a breeze. It’s why you can visit your elementary school when you wash your hands somewhere that uses the same industrial soap your elementary school’s janitor stocked in the girl’s bathroom. It’s why the smells of garlic, alcohol, Mr. Scent Magic Markers, vanilla, old books, and furniture oil can take you to places and people you didn’t even know you can still recall.

On my shelf, I have the scent of my second honeymoon (White Citrus), and even a few drops left of my first honeymoon (Tangerine). I have the scent of my first summer as a camp counselor (Juniper Breeze), and my first semester away at college (Peach Bellini). I have the smell of my bedroom in eighth grade, since that’s when I first discovered fragrances at all (Country Apple).  I have the hairspray I shared with my cousin during our roommate-summers at the beach.Classic Perfume Bottle

And I always, always, always wear Clinique Happy. I can’t smell it once it’s on, so that one’s actually not for me… it’s for the people I love. Every time they hug me, I’m imprinting their mind with the combination of my arms around them and the scent of my perfume.

If they catch a whiff of somebody else in a crowd who happens to wear my fragrance, they might not even know why they’re thinking of me, but their brain sends a message that evokes a feeling: “I am loved.”

And if I’m really lucky, they’ll specifically know and remember, “I’m loved by Tricia.”

It’s a sneaky little trick.

Tricia Lott Williford

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  1. I totally get this, although I’ve never tried intentionally creating memories with special scents (what a great idea!) But as a missionary kid growing up overseas, there were certain smells that transported me back to my grandmother’s house across thousands of miles. I had to smile that you wear Clinique Happy because I do, too, after my mom introduced it to me. Now when I wear it, my own missionary kids said, “You smell like Mom-Mom’s house!” And I am honored. 🙂

  2. You keep opening my mind a little at a time, thank you.

  3. Love this. I was actually in an airport in 2013 and thought to myself, ‘I want to smell good more often (<– obviously the threshold is low). I had a 6mo old at the time, but the women here in Czech ALWAYS smell amazing. So right then and there I bought a bottle of 'White' from Zara and announced my intentions to my husband. I'm not quite the cloud of intoxication I hope to be, but I don't smell like spit up anymore, so we're getting there 🙂

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