Freeport, ME, October 6, 2021
In "Remembrance of Things Past," Marcel Proust reflects that, "the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time… ready to remind us… in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”
Many people may recognize, at least anecdotally, the role that our senses play in the recollection of memories. And our sense of smell is most closely linked to memory. Autumn is a season that is particularly known for many favorite scents – from fallen leaves to pumpkin spice treats… Have you ever caught a whiff of something familiar and, even if you couldn’t immediately identify the scent, it brought to mind something as vivid as remembering a meal with your grandmother or even something vague, like an emotion? Neuroscientists suggest it is because the olfactory bulb runs from the nose to the base of the brain and has direct connections to the regions of the brain that are responsible for emotion, memory and cognition.
Nature also has an interesting relationship with our memory – studies suggest that spending one hour interacting with nature can improve memory function by 20%. This is due to the restorative effects of spending time outside. Simply sitting by a river, listening to birds sing, or taking a short walk through a park offers a meditative reset for our brain, increasing cognitive function and strengthening memory.
So, the next time you’re walking down the street and shorten your step specifically to step on the crunchy leaf that’s in your path, also take the time to take a deep breath – what do you smell? Hold that moment and enjoy the added benefits of rejuvenating your mind and strengthening your memory of the moment.