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,
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.