Smellscapes

Have you ever noticed how a familiar smell can sometimes take you back to childhood?  How the scent of roasting coffee beans can cause you to close your eyes and deeply inhale its lusciousness?  And how the odor of stinky garbage consumes your attention until you can get rid of it?  In addition to our sense of smell evoking memories and providing for pleasure or its opposite, its impact is surprisingly extensive.

The term smellscape was devised in 1985 by J. Douglas Porteous, Professor of Geography at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, to describe the totality of the olfactory landscape in a specific environment.  It  is a concept used liberally now, to characterize both urban and rural environments.  For the purpose of this post, we’ll focus on the kind of scents that embrace you when surrounded by trees, flowers, garden veggies, ground cover, and other outdoor elements.

According to an article from Science Direct, various studies show that aromas, smells, and scents all set off bodily reactions, they serve as connections and codes, and produce new means of engaging with space; an odor often defines a setting.  Further, smell is a crucial factor in how people experience spaces of health and wellbeing.

A Pub Med article entitled A Review of the Benefits of Nature Experiences: More Than Meets the Eye explains that the olfactory system is connected to emotions, and problems with that system can result in depression.  The sense of smell affects mood, cognition, and behavior. This suggests a clear avenue through which nature benefits could be received via smell.  I always feel elated when smelling Autumn leaves, fresh herbs, tomatoes on the vine, and night blooming jasmine, don’t you?

A write-up on Frontiers in Psychology tells us that pleasant natural scents can evoke the feeling of joy and have a calming effect.  When separating the visual, auditory, and olfactory nature stimuli on stress reduction, smells seem to have a more profound effect than visual and auditory stimuli.  So maybe when we are feeling stressed, walking through a sweet-smelling meadow could do more for us than listening to calming music.

In the early 1980s, the Japanese National Ministry of Forestry saw a need to decrease the pressures of modernization in the country, and began to promote forest bathing on its public lands.  Shinrin-yoku, its proper name, involves mindfully walking through a forest, taking in the experience not only with your eyes and ears, but also your nose.  Research shows that various pine trees produce olfactory compounds that positively affect blood pressure, heart-rate variability, salivary cortisol, alpha-amylase and oxygenation of the prefrontal cortex. (They also) stimulate immune system function, in particular the innate natural killer cells that are famous for destroying tumors and viral-infected cells.  Three mindful hours spent in a forest can positively affect natural killer cells for up to 30 days, a 2010 study shows.  I don’t believe any pharmaceutical could provide such significant benefit.

The smells of green landscapes offer an abundance of health advantages.  If you enjoy the outdoors, you now have another reason to get out there.  If time outside has never been your thing, maybe you’ll reassess.  The delightful fragrances of our Primal Mother await you with perks.

Bouquets of Blessings,

Lisa

The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.

53 thoughts on “Smellscapes

      1. Good Sunday to you my dear Sister Lisa! 🌞🙏🌞
        I appreciate the opportunity very much and I hope all is well with you and yours!🙏
        See you soon!
        Brother in Christ Jesus,
        Lawrence

        Liked by 2 people

  1. The effect of nature on our well-being is proven by many studies. It is beneficial to children with educational problems and prisoners who are less likely to go back to crime when they are looking at the green fields from their windows instead of the brick walls.
    The well-made point, Lisa.

    Joanna

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  2. Smell is definitely a valuable sixth sense! When we get in nature, we walk with with our noses in the air … to smell nature! I think of so many places where we have walked before – Spain and Portugal, during our Camino’s, where I smelled so many things (but why do I now only remembered the smell of food 😉) and in New Zealand we always smelled fresh & wet grass. Here in South Africa it’s mostly dry ground, but it smells like home 😊. Oh, and don’t forget about the spring flowers in September (though it gives me hay fever)! We always feels re-energised after a walk in nature … due to what we saw and smelled.
    Your pictures are lovely as always Lisa, enjoy a great weekend 🌸.

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  3. Wonderful post! Each of our senses helps us to experience and appreciate the natural world. Our sense of smell is so very important. I think of Lily of the Valley flowers…so fragrant, so intoxicatingly beautiful. Some scents are unique and cannot be replicated. Our sense of smell brings back a host of memories as well…think of a summer rain, the smell of woodsmoke from a cabin, the earthen smell of leaves as we rake them into piles.

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  4. Forest bathing was what I did in the park in Naperville, although part of the area was prairie. I like to mountain bath as well. 🙂 When we get to our Wyoming cabin, the mountain air scent is just wonderful. I also love the scent of lavender. Some years ago when my s-i-l still lived in Provence, we drove through an area where they grew lavender. Even though it had been harvested already, the scent was still prevalent and delicious. I love the smell of coffee even though I don’t like straight coffee. The scent of rain is one I cherish more now that we live where it rarely rains. One of my best scent memories is from many years ago when we stayed in a motel on Nag’s Head. Our room had a jasmine plant in front of it. The scent was beyond description.

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    1. Hey, Janet, thanks for sharing your memories of lovely smellscapes. Agreed, mountain air is intoxicating, and I, too, began appreciating the rain once I got to Arizona! When I lived in South Florida, there was a huge night blooming jasmine by my building, and its bold fragrance was like no other I’ve known. The lavender fields sound other-worldly! 🌞

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  5. What an enlightening post. I’ve never heard of the concept smellscape before, yet after reading your article, it makes perfect sense to me, as does the research findings on environmental scents and mood and health. An awesome post, Lisa. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Another fascinating element of nature we often overlook. I’ve grown to become quite tuned in to “urban” smells as they can trigger my wife’s migraines. Artificial perfumes, new petroleum based products etc. The interesting thing is we spend a lot of time in nature and never have those issues with those natural smells. Your comment regarding pine trees is spot on. I grew up next to a woods full of them and always enjoyed the first breath of fresh air when we left the house. Not as many of the pines in the forest we currently live in, but when we encounter one it always reminds me of my childhood. As usual, enjoyed your insightful post.

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  7. This is a wonderful post. Yes, a walk whose backdrop is the tang of wild garlic, the musky smell from a fungus-commandeered dead tree or an ozone-fest at the seaside is a walk that’s moved up a gear in re-charging our batteries. I hadn’t really thought of this, so thanks!

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  8. I agree wholeheartedly. When I was 21 years old, I experienced a ruptured ovary due to a cyst. I had emergency surgery and was hospitalized for several days. My mother bought me a bottle of Chantilly perfume while I was there. After that, I could never wear that perfume again as it always reminded me of the hospital.

    I very much appreciate aroma therapy and enjoy experimenting with different scents. Citrus energizes me and lifts my spirits. Lavender relaxes me.

    We are blessed to have all of our senses.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is excellent information Lisa and lovely photos. Th olfactory system is a powerful connection to our past and to our healing. I appreciate this information, resources, and whole heartedly agree that the impact of nature is a powerful healer.

    I always look forward to and enjoy your articles. I’ve gained many excellent insights and resources through your research, thinking, and sharing.
    😊
    Have a wonderful week ahead.

    .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, LaDonna, I am most grateful for your kind praise. And I’m thrilled you find my blog useful. (Your posts have taught me a lot as well!) Sharing the things I find inspiring is the reason I write. Hope your week is going well, my friend! 🌞

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  10. Aromatherapy has worked well as a mind settling technique in my yoga practice, Lavender and peppermint are currently my favorites. For some strange reason, I’m drawn as well to the smell of gasoline.

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    1. Funny you say that, I love the smell of gasoline, as well, but it’s so hard on the liver! I use quite a few essential oils, too: eucalyptus for diffusing when I have sinus issues, peppermint around my hairline when I have a headache, and lavender for foot massage before bed. More proof that our biology is tied in with the Earth! Have a great week! 🌞

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