The sense of smell is incredibly visceral and is the most directly linked to our emotions and memories of all the five senses. Scientists believe that this is because the sense of smell develops in the womb, and is therefore the only fully developed sense when we enter the world.
It is no surprise to learn therefore that we can be highly influenced by scents. Scientists believe we associate certain scents with past experiences, and this can trigger an emotional response in us for better or worse.
For example, the chemical smell of a hospital may stimulate anxiety because it brings back unpleasant memories, whereas a fragrance you associate with a good friend or a favorite place can evoke feelings of happiness.
There is even some evidence that odors we are exposed to in the womb can influence which foods and even flavors we prefer as adults. This is because flavor compounds consumed by the mother make their way into amniotic fluids that are ingested by the foetus. This can affect whether we turn out to have a sweet tooth, or prefer stronger flavors.
The effect of certain smells goes further than simply making us feel good or bad, because our emotional state also influences how creative and open to problem solving we are. A positive state of mind can also help us to feel calmer and more focused, which boosts the powers of concentration and increases productivity.
It is not difficult to see that bad odors can have the opposite effect, lowering our mood and putting us in a less receptive state of mind for new ideas and efficient working practices. Therefore, pleasant fragrances are not just a frippery, but should be taken just as seriously as other room ambiences such as temperature, sound and lighting.
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