Monthly Archives: April 2019

What’s your favourite memory-evoking smell?

Just one whiff of chlorine, and I’m 10-years-old again, shivering in Heston Swimming Baths.

It’s now five-and-a-half years since I moved to San Francisco from the UK.

There are naturally a ton of things that I enjoy about living here.

Unsurprisingly, though, there are also aspects I miss, and one perhaps curious example is how easy it is to swim in a public pool in the UK.

There are relatively few swimming pools open to the public here in California, and the few I know about are only open in the summer months, on limited days, and for limited hours.

Of course, there are beautiful Pacific Ocean beaches a short drive away, but few people here swim in the sea, mainly because it’s so teeth-chatteringly cold.

The surfers manage, but it’s okay for them. They wear wetsuits.

But as I said right at the top, it only takes a single sniff of that particular “eau de swimming pool” chlorine to transport me back in time.

The (very) old Heston Swimming Baths

I’ve been thinking a lot about how evocative certain smells can be, instantly triggering powerful memories.

Sometimes memories we thought we’d forgotten, if that makes sense.

I explained last week that I’m now working on a fascinating project that’s harnessing the strong association between fragrance and memory to boost emotional well-being, while you sleep.

And thanks, by the way, to the many readers who got in touch to encourage me in these endeavours.

This week, I’d love you to take a few minutes to think about the smells you’ve experienced that have a strong link to people, places, or events in your own past.

Then, maybe you’ll be generous enough to share your thoughts with me, and, in turn, our readers?

Please email me, then I’ll compile as many contributions as possible into a brief anthology that I’ll share in your next Moodnudges post.

It may help to answer three simple questions:

  1. What one smell has the strongest memory-evoking effect on you?
  2. What specifically does it remind you of?
  3. And how does it make you feel to have these memories triggered?

I really look forward to hearing from you, and can’t wait to share what others tell me.

Scents and sensibility

On an excitement scale from zero to ten, I’m about an eleven right now.

It’s all because my work in mood-nudging has taken a fascinating turn.

If you have a good memory you may recall that earlier this year I started looking into the use of guided imagery as a way to lift emotional well-being.

In fact, lots of Moodnudgers experimented with some prototype recordings.

Since then, things have excitingly evolved to incorporate aromatherapy, specifically aromatherapy that automatically delivers a fragrance to you as you sleep.

Just before you drop off, this same fragrance surrounds you as you listen to a relaxing guided imagery recording.

It’s a fascinating combination. What seems to happen is that the repeated fragrance during your sleep helps to embed the positive suggestions you hear before you fall asleep.

And it all happens subconsciously. Work by psychologists in Germany showed that a similar schedule of night-time scent delivery boosted participants’ memories, and it was these findings that prompted me to wonder if a similar procedure might magnify the effects of guided imagery.

If you stop to think about it, I’m sure you’ve encountered the extraordinary connection between your memory and your sense of smell.

Maybe you’ve caught a whiff of some aroma or scent that’s instantly transported you back to a time or person in your past?

That’s because your olfactory system is directly connected to your brain.

Over the past couple of months, our small but inspired team has begun building prototype programmed aromatherapy devices (heck, we do live in Silicon Valley) that we’re already experimenting with.

Like I said, it’s early days, but our first results have already been truly encouraging.

If it’s OK with you, I’d love to keep you in the loop as things develop.

This new focus does feel truly promising and inspiring.

Just imagine being able to boost your mood in your sleep.